Last week, we learned about an obscure state law called Wilson-Pakula, which bars any candidate from running for the nomination of a political party that he or she is not officially affiliated with, and therefore seemed likely to prevent Bernie Sanders, an Independent, from challenging Hillary Clinton in next year's presidential primary election in New York.
However, in the aftermath of this news, first reported by Capital, the New York State Board of Elections has back-pedaled on previous statements, which had alarmed Bernie fans so much that 6,592 of them and counting signed an online petition to have Wilson-Pakula overruled.
Today, Capital reported that Richard Winger, an analyst and blogger for California-based Ballot Access News, questioned their initial interpretation of Wilson-Pakula. An excerpt:
The Wilson-Pakula law does not pertain to presidential primaries.... No state’s presidential primary nominates a major party’s presidential candidate. Only the party’s national conventions do that. The candidates in New York Democratic presidential primaries are individuals running for Delegate to the national convention.
Winger points out that presidential primaries are subject to federal law, rather than state law. And under federal law, there is nothing barring Sanders from challenging Hillary for the Democratic nomination, while maintaining his status as an Independent.
Upon second consideration, BOE commissioner Doug Kellner agreed with Winger. "Indeed, it would be impossible to apply the statute [Wilson-Pakula] to presidential primaries," he told Capital.
Still, Joshua Douglas, the Manhattan-based attorney who started the "GET BERNIE SANDERS ON BALLOT IN NEW YORK" petition, thinks the thousands of signatures he's collected are still sending an important message, regardless of how various politicians and analysts interpret the law. "I'm glad that the Board of Elections is taking this stance, but I still think one way or the other, there's going to be a court battle on this," he said.
"What Bernie has been saying, is that he wants to get people more active in their democracy," he added. "And this is one way to do that."