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Ahead of New York loss, Bernie Sanders blasts closed primary as “wrong”

Bernie Sanders at Penn State on Tuesday.
Bernie Sanders at Penn State on Tuesday.
(Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

Bernie Sanders ripped into New York's primary voting system on Tuesday as a betrayal of democratic government that is preventing millions of people from having a say in choosing the country's next president.

Speaking in New York City, Sanders criticized the state for holding a "closed primary" in which voters must be registered with a party in order to cast a ballot.

"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," Sanders said, according to the New York Daily News. "That’s wrong."

Of course, the political parties don't have a legal obligation to ensure that anyone can participate in choosing their presidential nominees. But their primary elections are bankrolled at least in part by the government, and that's one reason they should be open to anyone who wants to participate, Sanders said.

"You're paying for this election," he told one supporter. "It's administered by the state. You have a right to vote. And that's a very unfortunate thing, which I hope will change."

Why Sanders is making this attack now

EDUARDO MUNOZ ALVAREZ / Stringer
Clinton in Chappaqua, New York, on Tuesday

New York is far from the only state to hold a closed primary, and requiring party registration to participate in the primary is a fairly standard practice.

There's also a way in which this attack may come off as self-serving for Sanders. As Vox's Ezra Klein points out, Sanders didn't raise this objection after winning closed caucus states like Colorado and Alaska.

Still, Sanders's attack on closed primaries may have greater force in New York, where there have been mounting concerns about how voting in the state was handled.

More than 60,000 voters previously registered in Brooklyn mysteriously disappeared from the Democratic voter rolls, WNYC reported. Complaints about difficulty casting votes were rampant in New York today. NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio has called for an audit after widespread concerns.

And New York doesn't just have a primary closed to independents; it also has the earliest deadline to switch party registration of any state in the country. As Sanders says, that really is making it much more difficult for voters to pick their presidential candidates.

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