New York City’s first mayoral contest using ranked choice voting has been thrown into chaos after city election officials posted incorrect preliminary vote counts in the Democratic primary and then withdrew them
New York City elections officials will try again Wednesday to report preliminary results of the Democratic mayoral primary after a first attempt went disastrously wrong.
The mayor’s race, the first city election to use ranked choice voting, was thrown into chaos after the city’s Board of Elections posted incorrect preliminary vote counts in the Democratic primary and then withdrew them.
Critics said the mistake Tuesday by the city’s Board of Elections, which released a statement saying that 135,000 ballot images that were in its computer system for testing purposes had never been cleared, proved that the board was not equipped to handle the new ranked choice system.
“Our members warned the public for months that the City was ill-prepared to execute elections under the new Ranked-Choice Voting system, and the concerns they raised continue to be borne out by the facts,” the City Council’s Noir Latino and Asian Caucus — whose leaders favor putting a repeal of ranked choice voting on the November ballot — said in a statement.
Board of Elections officials apologized for their error and said they would release new ranked choice results Wednesday for in-person voting in the June 22 primary.
The results released Tuesday afternoon and then withdrawn appeared to show former city sanitation commissioner Kathryn Garcia narrowly trailing Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams in the race to succeed the term-limited Mayor Bill de Blasio with civil rights lawyer Maya Wiley in third place.
Adams’ campaign, which had pointed out the vote discrepancy after the faulty count was released, said the former police captain remained confident he would win.
“We appreciate the Board’s transparency and acknowledgment of their error,” Adams said in a statement late Tuesday. “We look forward to the release of an accurate, updated simulation, and the timely conclusion of this critical process.”
Final results in the primary could be weeks away. The results that were released and then withdrawn on Tuesday didn’t include any of the nearly 125,000 absentee ballots cast in the Democratic primary.
Those ballots won’t be added to the count until at least July 6.
New York City adopted ranked choice voting for primaries and special elections in a 2019 referendum and used the system in citywide races for the first time in the June 22 primary.
Under the system, voters could rank up to five candidates in order of preference.
Since no candidate was the first choice of more than 50% of voters, a computer on Tuesday tabulated ballots in a series of rounds that worked like instant run-offs.
In each round, the candidate in last place iss eliminated. Votes cast for that person are then redistributed to the surviving candidates, based on whoever voters put next on their ranking list. That process repeats until only two candidates were left.
Versions of the ranked choice system have been used in U.S. cities including San Francisco and Minneapolis for years and in statewide races in Maine.
Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause New York, which promoted adoption of the ranked choice system, noted in a statement that Tuesday’s discrepancy was due to human error, not a defect inherent in ranked choice voting itself. “We are not at all happy that it happened, but it was a mistake that the BOE is moving to correct,” Lerner said.
The Democratic primary winner will be the prohibitive favorite in the general election against Curtis Sliwa, the Republican founder of the Guardian Angels.