NEW YORK -- Dr. Ben Carson will still be on Republican ballots in Tuesday’s New York primary, potentially pulling votes away from the candidate he's endorsed in a state Donald Trump calls "vital."
Carson was late on submitting a letter requesting to be removed from the state's ballot, New York State Board of Election’s Thomas Connolly said. On Monday, the last day that a a request to have his votes voided could be made, Carson sent in a void request at 1:54 p.m., after MSNBC asked his team about it.
Carson is the only Republican candidate who did not request his removal on time, Connolly said. Marco Rubio left the race on March 16 and submitted his request to be removed from the ballot five days later. Rubio and Gov. Jeb Bush’s letters were both received on March 22 and processed by the state. Carson was already stumping for Trump at this point, giving interviews and joining him at events, albeit at some times seemingly reluctantly.
Former Carson communications director Larry Ross said crediting his presence on the ballot to a paperwork issue “misses the point" and pointed to federal election law as a reason, before directing MSNBC to another spokesman, Shermichael V. Singleton, who would only say "no comment."
We won't ever know how many New Yorkers vote for Carson: After being voided, those votes won't be reported publicly, and they won't count against the overall percentages that decide delegate allocation in each congressional district. Those votes, however, could well have boosted another candidate in some districts.
Voters routinely vote for candidates who have long since suspended their campaigns if they're on the ballot. Earlier this month in Wisconsin, Carson got 5,600 votes, while Marco Rubio got 10,600. In California’s Republican primary in 2012, Newt Gingrich won 55,000 votes despite having left the race six weeks earlier.
Experts say this is because voters don’t know the candidate has left the race, simply still like the candidate or are holding out hope the candidate will have a shot later on. While these stray votes haven’t historically mattered much, 2016 is an unusually competitive race in which every vote matters. Front-runner Trump is struggling to accrue 1,237 delegates to have a majority before July in order to avoid a contested convention. The risk of a such a convention may give hope to supporters of suspended candidates.
Thanks to New York’s proportional delegate allocation, a few hundred votes for Carson in certain districts could matter. While 14 of the state’s delegates go to the overall winner, 81 are allocated proportionally. Three delegates are doled out in each of the state’s 27 congressional districts to the district’s winner if he wins more than 50 percent of the vote, or to the district’s top two winners if no one achieves a majority. In the state’s most liberal districts, a few thousand votes are expected to be cast in the Republican primary -- a few hundred votes that go to Carson instead of, say, Trump could, in theory, make a difference.
Carson is still on the ballot in other states, too: Delaware’s State Election Commissioner Elaine Manlove said he’s still on the ballot there, along with Rubio and Bush; her office sent the campaigns “the necessary form with no response,” and the deadline has since passed. A spokesman for Connecticut’s secretary of state said Carson was the only candidate still on the ballot who isn’t in the race there. According to local reports, Carson's still on the ballot in Pennsylvania, too.
His team would not say whether they working to get Carson off future ballots or void votes cast for him.