- A US District Judge said New York must hold the Democratic Presidential Primary on June 23 as previously scheduled.
- The state’s Board of Elections had canceled the event citing coronavirus concerns; however, the primaries would still go forward in the counties with other issues on the ballot.
- Former candidate Andrew Yang filed a lawsuit against the Board, saying that it suppressed voters’ rights and violated the rights of candidates who qualified to be on the ballot.
- The judge sided with Yang, saying voters should have the right to vote for candidates who share their viewpoints, and that candidates should not be deprived of their ability to get delegates heading into the convention.
- Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed an executive order to mail absentee ballots to every voter in the state so they can participate in the election via mail. In-person polls will still remain open.
Presidential Primary Reinstated
A United States District Judge ruled that New York’s presidential primary election is to go forward on June 23 as scheduled.
At the end of April, New York’s State Board of Elections canceled the primary citing concerns over the coronavirus. The board voted to remove all candidates who had suspended their campaigns from the ballot, leaving only the presumptive nominee Joe Biden, and eliminating the need for a Democratic presidential primary. Not all primaries were canceled, though. Counties with other elections on their ballots were still to cast their votes.
This decision was met with criticism from many in the Bernie Sanders campaign and others involved in the primaries. Former candidate Andrew Yang ended up hitting the election board with a lawsuit, claiming that this choice suppressed voters in the state and violated his right as a qualified candidate to appear on the ballot.
U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres agreed with Yang. Torres wrote that by “removing Yang, Sanders, and eight other Democratic presidential candidates from the ballot deprived them of associational rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution.”
She also claimed that Yang was able to prove that he and his delegates had “suffered an ‘injury’” as a result of the election board’s decision. Yang, and the other former candidates, chose to suspend their campaigns rather than terminate them so they could continue to appear on ballots and collect delegates in the remaining states. Torres said that not only did the decision to cancel the election deprive candidates of their shot at the bid for presidency, but it also “deprived their pledged delegates of the opportunity to run for a position where they could influence the party platform” at the August convention.
Torres also added that it took voter’s chance to elect delegates that represent their points of view away from them. As a result, Yang and Sanders, as well as Elizabeth Warren, Michael Bennet, Amy Klobuchar, Tulsi Gabbard, Michael Bloomberg, Pete Buttigieg, Deval Patrick and Tom Steyer will appear on the presidential primary ballot alongside Biden.
Yang released a statement on Twitter celebrating the decision. He said he was “glad that a federal judge agreed that depriving millions of New Yorkers of the right to vote was wrong.
Faiz Shakir, Sanders’ campaign manager, also gave a statement applauding the order.
“We’re glad Judge Torres has restored basic democracy in New York,” Shakir said. “People in every state should have the right to express their preference in the 2020 Democratic primary.”
Others online were also happy with the news, prompting #YangSavesDemocracy to trend on Twitter for a moment.
The race may not be over, though. Douglas A. Kellner, a co-chair of the New York Board of Elections, told the New York Times that the board is “reviewing the decision and preparing an appeal.” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo also said that while the elections are set to go ahead in June per the court’s order, an appeal is possible.
What Comes Next?
Many, however, are concerned about how the state will vote during the COVID-19 pandemic. In his initial reasoning for canceling the elections, Kellner said that holding this presidential primary right now would “essentially a beauty contest that, given the situation with the public health emergency, seems to be unnecessary and, indeed, frivolous,”
New York City has become the epicenter of the outbreak in the United States, and has one of the worst outbreaks globally. The state has over 300,000 cases and almost 20,000 deaths. New York City makes up roughly half of the state’s case totals.
While states like Wisconsin have held their primary elections during this, that choice sparked a lot of outrage among voters and others throughout the country. Several reports indicate that some Wisconsin voters have tested positive for the coronavirus.
Because of this, mail-in voting will be prioritized. In April, Governor Cuomo signed an executive order directing the Board of Elections to mail all New York voters absentee ballot applications. This will allow any and all voters who want to vote by mail to do so, potentially limiting long lines and close contact at polling stations.
Polls will still remain open for those who fail to apply for an absentee ballot and for those who need assistance requiring in-person voting.
See what others are saying: (New York Times) (Gothamist) (Bloomgberg)
Biden to Outline Actions To Combat the Recent Rise in Violent Crime and Gun Violence
The president’s orders come the same day the Associated Press released data showing that a record number of gun sales were stopped last year because of background checks.
President Biden Issues Orders on Violent Crime Rise
President Biden will outline several actions on Wednesday that his administration plans to take to curb the recent rise in violent crime and gun violence.
That includes tougher enforcement policies for federal gun control laws, as well as new guidelines for how cities and states can use COVID-19 relief funds to combat gun violence. For instance, those guidelines will allow for the hiring of more police officers, paying officers overtime, buying equipment, and funding additional “enforcement efforts.”
Biden’s plan also includes investing in community-based intervention programs for both potential perpetrators and potential victims of gun violence and helping felons adjust to housing and work after leaving prison.
Background Checks Stop Record Number of Sales
Hours ahead of Biden’s announcement, the Associated Press reported that background checks blocked a record 300,000 gun sales last year, according to newly obtained FBI data provided by a nonprofit that advocates for gun control.
In fact, the numbers are staggering compared to previous years. For example, background checks that successfully blocked gun sales last year amounted to nearly twice that of 2019.
Notably, about 42% of those blocked sales were explicitly because would-be buyers had felony convictions on their records.
Still, it’s important to note that these stats don’t necessarily mean less guns are being successfully bought. While the rate of barred buyers has increased somewhat from around 0.6% to 0.8% since 2018, the U.S. also saw a record number of gun sales last year.
Nearly 23 million guns were bought in 2020 alone, according to the consulting firm Small Arms Analytics. Alongside that record, the country saw another record when it came to the rate of gun violence.
Because of that, Everytown for Gun Safety — the group that gave the AP the new background check data — reiterated its belief in the need for stronger gun control regulation.
“There’s no question that background checks work, but the system is working overtime to prevent a record number of people with dangerous prohibitors from being able to buy firearms,” Sarah Burd-Sharps, the group’s director of research, told the AP. “The loopholes in the law allow people to avoid the system, even if they just meet online or at a gun show for the first time.”
Unsurprisingly, gun rights advocates have pushed against that idea, and some have even pushed against this new data on background checks. As Alan Gottlieb — founder of the group the Second Amendment Foundation — argued, the higher number of denials could be partially because of false positives.
“A day doesn’t go by that our office doesn’t get complaint calls from people who’ve been denied wrongly,” he told the AP.
See what others are saying: (USA Today) (Associated Press) (Reuters)
California Plans Unprecedented $5.2 Billion Rent Forgiveness Program
State lawmakers are also debating on whether to extend the eviction moratorium, which is set to end next week, to ensure that Californians are not evicted before their debts can be paid off by the state.
Rent Relief in the Works
The California State Legislature is in the final stages of negotiating an unprecedented $5.2 billion rent forgiveness program to pay off unpaid rent accumulated during the pandemic.
It is not entirely clear yet who would receive the money, which comes from an unexpected budget surplus and federal stimulus funds. After speaking to a top aide for Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), the Associated Press reported that the $5.2 billion figure would cover all rent.
However, the same aide told The New York Times that the state had federal funds “to help pay the rent of low-income people.”
The outlet also explicitly reported that the program “would be available to residents who earn no more than 80 percent of the median income in their area and who can show pandemic-related financial hardship.”
Newsom offered little clarity, retweeting multiple stories and posts on the matter, including The Times article as well as others that said “all” rent would be paid.
Regardless, the program would be the most generous rent forgiveness plan in American. Still, there remains an unresolved question of extending the statewide eviction moratorium that ends June 30.
Eviction Ban Complications
Starting the new program and distributing all the money will take some time, and California has been struggling to keep up with demand for more modest rent relief programs.
According to a report from the California Department Housing and Community Development, just $32 million of $490 million in requests for rental assistance through the end of May had been paid.
State legislators are debating extending the protections and are reportedly close to a deal, but nothing is set in stone yet.
Tenants rights groups say the move is necessary to ensure struggling Californians are not evicted before their debts can be paid off by the state, and some housing advocates want to keep the moratorium in place until employment has reached pre-pandemic levels.
Landlords, however, have said it is time to end the ban, pointing to the state’s rapid economic recovery, which added 495,000 new jobs since February, as well as Newsom lifting all restrictions on businesses last week.
But according to Opportunity Insights, an economic tracker based at Harvard, while it is true that employment for middle- and high-wage jobs has now surpassed pre-pandemic levels, the rates for low-income workers are down nearly 40% since January of last year.
As a result, many of the people who have months or even a year of unpaid rent have barely been able to chip away at what they owe.
State Recovery Spurred by Revenue Surplus
Newsom’s new program comes as the governor has proposed a $100 billion recovery package — also drawing from the budget surplus and unspent federal funds — that would pour funds into numerous sectors including education, homelessness, and much more.
California is not the only state that has newfound reserves. According to The Times, at least 22 states have surplus revenue after pinching pennies during the pandemic. Some are still deciding what to do with the funding, but others have already begun to invest it into education, construction, the arts, and more.
While many economists have said these funds will be incredibly helpful tools to get economic recovery back on track and aid those hurt most by the pandemic, Republicans in Congress have argued to those surpluses should go towards paying for President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan.
The Biden Administration and most Congressional Democrats have remained adamant that the states keep their extra funding to implement recovery-centered programs. White House spokeswoman Emilie Simons reiterated that belief Monday, telling reporters that state surpluses will not alter America’s infrastructure needs and emphasizing that many states are still struggling economically.
“This crisis has adversely impacted state and local governments, and that is not fully captured by one economic indicator,” she said.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Associated Press) (The Hill)
Manhattan City Council Candidate Says He’s “Not Ashamed” After BDSM Video Leaks Online
While many applauded the candidate’s response, others suspect the entire ordeal may have been manufactured for publicity.
BDSM Video Leaks
Zack Weiner, a 26-year-old candidate for Manhattan’s City Council, has caught a flood of attention in recent days after responding to a BDSM video of himself that leaked online.
According to the New York Post, which first reported on the leak Saturday, the video was published by an anonymous Twitter account earlier this month.
“My magnificent domme friend played with Upper West Side city council candidate Zack Weiner and I’m the only one who has the footage,” the tweet reportedly read.
The video was flagged to the Post by Weiner’s campaign manager, Joe Gallagher, the news outlet said. The tabloid also claimed it showed Weiner gagged while “subjecting himself to various abuses by a leather-bound woman who pours wax on him and clips his nipples with clothespins.”
The footage was filmed at Parthenon studio in Midtown, which the Post described as known for its high-quality BDSM dungeons, and Weiner actually confirmed the video’s authenticity to the outlet, saying it was filmed at that location in 2019 with a former girlfriend that he met during a Halloween party.
Weiner Says He’s “Not Ashamed”
Weiner took to Twitter on Saturday to address the private video head on.
“Whoops. I didn’t want anyone to see that, but here we are,” he wrote.
“I am not ashamed of the private video circulating of me on Twitter. This was a recreational activity that I did with my friend at the time, for fun. Like many young people, I have grown into a world where some of our most private moments have been documented online.”
“While a few loud voices on Twitter might chastise me for the video, most people see the video for what it is: a distraction. I trust that voters will choose a city council representative based on their policies and their ability to best serve the community,” he continued.
In his comments to the Post, he added, “I am a proud BDSMer. I like BDSM activity.” He also said he had no idea how the footage surfaced, saying “It’s definitely a violation of trust.”
Praise and Suspicions
Many people online have applauded Weiner for refusing to apologize for private consensual acts. One, for example, tweeted, “Yeah – as long as this was between 2 (or more) consenting adults – I don’t care one bit. If this info ALONE would cause you to vote for somebody else, then I am FAR MORE worried about YOUR participation in Government than his!”
In fact, many have said they would vote for him after learning of the video and slammed critics, as well as the tabloid, for “kink-shaming.”
It’s worth noting that the Post’s article described Weiner as someone who “has mostly been a nonentity in the race for the Upper West Side’s 6th District.” It pointed to the fact that he has no endorsements and that his campaign barely raised $10,000 — most of which allegedly came from himself and his campaign manager.
Because of this, along with Gallagher’s contact with the Post, some have speculated that the entire ordeal may have been some kind of stunt manufactured for publicity.