Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams appears to still be leading the mayoral candidate pack after the New York board of elections published its newest batch of ballot tallies, an update in the counting before final results are solidified likely next week.
After the new dump, Adams leads former Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia by one percentage point, or 8,426 votes.
The updated tally Tuesday — delayed hours after the city board of elections predicted this round of results would be published — comes after a dizzying couple of weeks in the race, during which a BOE fumble punctuated the city’s first ever use of ranked-choice voting.
The Tuesday dump included tens of thousands of ballots cast absentee, and was expected to give a clearer picture of who will ultimately win. The winner of the Democratic primary will be the heavy favorite for the November general election.
Adams led the initial rounds of counting, but Garcia made up significant ground in the batch of ballots published last week.
Last Tuesday, the BOE threw the race into upheaval when it published new tallies, only to later cryptically retract the data with little explanation beyond a “discrepancy” in the numbers it was working to fix.
Late that night, the board explained that it had failed to remove sample ballots from the vote totals, skewing the numbers. It later corrected and re-posted the totals.
The snafu caused proverbial forehead smacking among proponents of the new voting system, which New York voters approved during a 2019 ballot measure. Those good government advocates worry that the BOE’s screw-up will scare off other states and localities from using the method. They’ve been quick to emphasize that the problem in New York was not specific to ranked-choice voting.
“The BOE has now clarified that the discrepancy in the count was due to human error, not any problem with the technology or ranked choice voting,” good government group Common Cause New York said in a statement. “We are not at all happy that it happened, but it was a mistake that the BOE is moving to correct.”
Rob Richie, president of electoral reform group FairVote, told TPM further that even the delay in getting the results is more inherent to New York than ranked-choice voting in general.
“Such delays are not intrinsic to use of RCV,” he said of ranked-choice voting. “The biggest cities in Minnesota and Maine and the two big cities in New Mexico with RCV have ballot processing regimes in place that result in their election night totals being effectively final.”
He said that New York could take steps to smooth its operation, including processing more absentee ballots on election night, and making the unofficial reported tallies be full vote records and not just the first choices.
The BOE, which is populated by political appointees rather than seasoned election officials and has historically been plagued by nepotism, has earned the biggest black eye during the process. Some are even calling for its complete reform.
Still, some groups have been keeping a close watch on particularly the Adams campaign, which raised concern when it attacked a last-minute campaigning partnership between Garcia and former presidential candidate Andrew Yang — a common practice in ranked-choice elections — as nefarious and specifically intended to suppress a Black candidate and Black voters. If Garcia overtook Adams during the rounds of counting, they worried, he may resurrect those damaging arguments.
But ranked-choice voting advocates are encouraging observers to look beyond New York’s particular brand of dysfunction, at what they see as gains from the new voting system.
“If results hold today, women are likely to win 29 seats this November, up from 14,” Richie said. “Depending on the mayoral race, it looks like at least 3 of the 8 citywide and borough president positions will go to African Americans.”