The Mayoral Election Mess

A sense of chaos surrounds the race, thanks to the BOE’s error

| 01 Jul 2021 | 04:27

Let’s try this again, shall we?

One day after New York City’s Board of Elections stirred up a great amount of confusion by publishing erroneous ranked choice voting results, it released a new preliminary tabulation showing the lead Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams held in the mayor’s race on Primary night narrowing.

Wednesday’s unofficial and incomplete results were actually in line with the bungled tally BOE reported the day before. Though Adams is still on top, former Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia now trails him by just 14, 755 votes, or two percentage points, in the final round of the ranked choice tabulation. Maya Wiley had received the second-most first-choice votes on Primary night, but was overtaken by Garcia in the eighth round of the simulation – albeit by the slimmest of margins: Fewer than 350 votes.

It’s too early to eliminate any of the three from the running to become the Democratic party’s nominee, as there are still 125,000 absentee ballots to be counted. The first-choice votes from the absentee ballots will be factored in, and then the ranked choice tabulation will run once again, this time delivering a truly clear picture of the results (absent any further BOE errors). Those results are not expected until mid-July.

In the meantime, a sense of chaos still surrounds the mayor’s race, thanks to the error made by the BOE in its first attempt to tabulate the in-person ranked choice votes. The board initially posted results Tuesday, which were soon called into question by the Adams campaign, which noted that the tally showed a much higher vote total than what was reported on primary night. The BOE acknowledged a “discrepancy” and retracted those initial results hours later. In a statement late Tuesday night, the board said it had mistakenly included about 135,000 test ballots it had used previously to test its system, inflating the vote totals. A spokesperson told the New York Times that there was no problem with the board’s software and that the mistake was the result of a human error “where a staffer did not remove the test ballot images from the Election Management System.”

On Wednesday, after pundits attributed the disarray to ranked choice voting as an election system, the BOE released another statement, along with the updated results, pointing the finger at itself.

“Let us be clear: RCV was not the problem, rather a human error that could have been avoided,” the BOE said in a statement. “We have implemented another layer of review and quality control before publishing information going forward. We can say with certainty that the election night vote counts were and are accurate and the RCV data put out today is correct as well.”

Though the BOE has long been viewed as an incompetent entity in the city – which in 2020 was ill-equipped to handle the massive number of absentee ballots from voters, delaying primary results for six weeks in some races – some those on the outside looking in have taken the board’s blunder as an opportunity to sow doubt in the electoral process – namely former President Donald Trump.

“Just like in the 2020 Presidential Election, it was announced overnight in New York City that vast irregularities and mistakes were made,” Trump said in a statement. “The fact is, based on what has happened, nobody will ever know who really won.”

Call for Patience

The three remaining contenders did not add fuel to the fire and called for patience as well as transparency from the BOE as it counts the remaining ballots.

Adams called out Trump directly.

“As always, Trump gets it wrong,” he said in a tweet. “Yesterday, the results released by the BOE had discrepancies which are being addressed. There were NO similar issues in November. Neither of these elections were a hoax or a scam. We need to count every vote. That takes time, and that’s ok.”

Wiley called the BOE’s mistake an “embarrassing debacle,” and that moving forward, the board must be extremely transparent in its process.

“We have made tremendous strides in making it easier to vote,” Wiley said in a statement. “Now residents deserve to have full faith in in how our elections are administered. New Yorkers expect and deserve a transparent process and that every single vote is accurately counted – our democracy will be stronger for it.”

Garcia echoed the other two candidates, and reaffirmed her faith in the ranked choice voting process.

“New Yorkers overwhelmingly voted to enact ranked choice voting and participated in it by ranking multiple candidates in our City’s first ranked-choice election,” said Garcia. “Every candidate should respect the democratic process and be committed to supporting whomever the voters have selected to be the Democratic nominee for Mayor.”