Posted by Jesse Shayne on November 28, 2016 at 3:15 PM
Open-primary advocates want Sanders’ support
Activists seeking to overturn rules limiting participation in New York’s primaries to registered party members are calling on perhaps the country’s most recognizable independent to stand with them in court in Manhattan next month.
The non-profit Open Primaries organization announced this week it had sent Bernie Sanders a letter signed online by more than 3,400 voters, urging him to attend a hearing in state Supreme Court on Dec. 6 for a case challenging the legality of New York’s closed primaries. New York City lawyer Mark Moody filed the lawsuit in April after being unable to vote in New York’s Democratic presidential primary. Moody used to be an unaffiliated voter and registered as a Democrat in March, but New York’s arcane election laws required voters to switch parties by the previous Oct. 9 in order to vote in that party’s 2016 primaries.
Moody’s complaint noted with irony that Donald Trump’s children, Ivanka and Eric, were unable to vote for their father in the April 19 Republican primary for the same reason. His lawsuit, pending before Justice Arthur Engoron, argues that New York’s closed primaries disenfranchise voters and should end.
New York currently has 2.5 million active voters with no party affiliation, only slightly fewer than its 2.6 million registered Republicans. Several hundred thousand other voters are enrolled in minor parties and are therefore ineligible to vote in Democratic or Republican primaries.
Sanders, the Vermont senator and registered independent who competed with Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination, lost the New York primary by around 300,000 votes, primarily because of Clinton’s margin in New York City and the suburbs (Sanders beat her in most upstate counties). The letter Open Primaries sent Sanders reminded him of what he said on the date of the primary: “Today, 3 million people in the state of New York who are independents have lost their right to vote in the Democratic or Republican primary. That’s wrong. You’re paying for this election. It’s administered by the state. You have a right to vote. And that’s a very unfortunate thing, which I hope will change in the future.”
John Opdycke, president of Open Primaries, said in a statement, “It is a problem that independent voters are being excluded from the political conversation at precisely a moment in our country’s history that their voice is most needed. This lawsuit is important. We need more open doors, and more participation, not less, to grow our state. I hope Senator Sanders will support it.”