By Penny Mintz

There is a primary election coming up on June 23rd. For a while, it looked like the presidential primary was off—canceled by a decision of the New York State Board of Elections. But things changed when Andrew Yang, joined by more than a dozen intervening Bernie delegates and members of the New York State Democratic Committee, sued to maintain the right to vote even though there was no question, presumably, that Joe Biden was going to be the presidential candidate of the Democratic Party in November. I am one of those interveners who fought to preserve that right to vote because there are still important issues to be determined.

The Board of Elections claimed that the presidential primary was no more than a “beauty contest” because the nomination of Joe Biden was a foregone conclusion. A federal judge disagreed. In reinstating the election, Judge Analisa Torres ruled that the cancellation “deprived Democratic voters of the opportunity to elect delegates [to the national convention] who could push their point of view in that forum.”

Ordinary voters—you and I—have limited avenues of influence on big public issues. But, as Judge Torres recognized, one of the powers that we enjoy is the power to vote for convention delegates who share our views. Torres noted that, besides anointing the party’s presidential candidate, the delegates “influence the party platform, vote on party governance issues, pressure the eventual nominee on matters of personnel or policy, and react to unexpected developments at the convention.” That makes our votes meaningful and, because so few people vote in the primaries, much more powerful than a vote in the general election.

Some people argue that a vote for Sanders in the primary is effectively a vote for Trump. That is simply not true. A vote in the primary is not like voting for a third-party candidate in the general election. It does not reduce the number of general election votes for Biden. It cannot act as a spoiler. Nor does it divide or weaken the Democratic Party, which faces much greater danger of alienating young voters who might see the party as unresponsive to their concerns. As Judge Torres concluded, the presidential primary vote is an opportunity for voters “to express their support for delegates who share their views.” 

I, for one, plan to take advantage of this opportunity on June 23rd to vote for the Sanders slate of delegates. I am one of those candidates—in the 10th congressional district. If I am elected I will work to motivate the national party to focus on issues that are important to us regular people: universal health care, environmental protection, shifting the tax burden to those who can afford to pay, and protection from corporate overreach.

If you live in the 66th State Assembly District, you will also see my name as a candidate for membership in the Democratic Party State Committee. The state committee is the governing body of the Democratic Party in the State of New York. While I have been part of the struggle to maintain the right to vote in NY and make democracy greater, my opponent in the race, Rachel Lavine, has been using her position in the state committee to limit voters’ effectiveness. 

In recent years, Lavine has opposed fusion voting, which enables a minor party to run a candidate who is also running on other party lines. That gives people the chance to vote for a mainstream candidate while also expressing support for the policies of a minor party. So, for example, if you want Andrew Cuomo to prevail over his Republican rival but you would also like him to support strong unions, you can express that by voting on the Working Families Party line instead of on the Democratic Party line. 

Lavine, as chair of the Progressive Caucus, proposed a resolution to the caucus that would have eliminated fusion voting. The caucus voted down Lavine’s resolution, and Lavine betrayed her own caucus by submitting the failed resolution to the full committee in her own name. 

On the issue of fusion voting, Rachel Lavine’s resolution attempted to achieve exactly what the New York Board of Elections had tried to do in the presidential primary—reduce the voters’ opportunity to express their views. Lavine wanted to get rid of the opportunity voters have had to express their views by voting for a mainstream candidate on a minority party line. Without fusion voting, the voters’ voices are diminished.

I hope you vote for me on June 23rd. However you choose to vote, just be sure to cast that ballot. It is precious and powerful. 

If you are uncomfortable about voting in person due to the dangers of COVID-19, request an absentee ballot by going to Check the box for “Temporary Illness” on the application. Every registered voter can vote by absentee ballot in the June election.

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