Andrew Yang’s lawsuit against the New York Board of Elections is off to a rocky start.
Yang’s attorneys got into a shouting match with a BOE lawyer on Monday during the first virtual court hearing on his legal effort to get New York’s Democratic presidential primary back on track, prompting the presiding judge to tell the parties to stop interrupting each other.
Held over a conference call to maintain social distancing, Yang’s legal team said in the Manhattan Federal Court hearing that the BOE committed an “illegal action” by unilaterally removing Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders from the primary ballot and canceling the June 23 election last week.
“All New Yorkers are being denied their right to vote, down-ballot elections are being impacted and the vote will be suppressed,” said Jeff Kurzon, one of the attorneys for Yang, who ended his long-shot bid for the Democratic presidential nomination months ago.
Representing the BOE, Assistant State Attorney General Matthew Conrad countered that the primary had to be canceled for public health reasons, arguing that “thousands” of volunteers would have to man polling locations if the election went on as planned amid the coronavirus pandemic, even if absentee voting is expanded.
Conrad also claimed Yang did not have legal standing to bring the suit, contending that only the Democratic National Committee or a state party could do so.
“That’s not true!” an unidentified Yang attorney protested.
Judge Analisa Torres was not pleased.
“Please do not speak over whoever is speaking,” she fumed.
Later on in the hearing, the same Yang attorney interrupted again while Torres was speaking.
“Sir, do not talk over me,” she warned.
The attorney did not interrupt again.
Yang is bringing the lawsuit as a New York resident whose right to vote has allegedly been infringed upon by the BOE decision.
Sanders has already endorsed Biden and there’s no other viable candidate in the Democratic race, so the BOE is arguing that it could scrap the primary for public health reasons.
Conrad noted that the Biden and Sanders campaigns have come to an agreement in which the Vermont senator would still be given New York delegates at the Democratic National Convention this summer as part of an unusual bid to unify the progressive and moderate factions of the party.
But Yang’s attorneys argued that the election cancellation sets a dangerous precedent.
“Canceling one election opens the door for the federal government to cancel other elections,” Kurzon said, calling the BOE’s decision “un-American.”
Torres did say how she plans to rule, though she kept pressing Conrad to explain how New York delegates could be awarded to Sanders if there’s no election to determine how many he should receive.
Conrad did not give a straight answer to the question but reiterated that the two campaigns had committed to an “agreement.”
Torres ended the virtual hearing by noting that she will issue her decision “in due course.”
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