In District 11, which covers the northwest Bronx, Eric Dinowitz led with 42 percent of the vote. Tenant lawyer Oswald Feliz led the pack in District 15, in the central Bronx, with 28 percent of first-round votes.

Dinowitz (left) and Feliz.

Two special elections for Bronx City Council districts remained undecided on Wednesday morning, with no candidate claiming a winning share of the vote, triggering the ranked-choice voting mechanism.

In District 11, which covers the northwest Bronx, Eric Dinowitz led with 42 percent of the vote. Mino Lora had 25 percent and Jessica Haller 15 percent, with Daniel Padernacht (13 percent), Kevin Pazmino (2.46 percent) and Carlton Berkley (1.93 percent) rounding out the field, with 97.6 percent of precincts reporting. Dinowitz, the son of longtime Assemblymember Jeffrey Dinowitz, held an 1,164-vote lead over Lora with 2,278 first-round ballots going to other candidates and roughly 1,800 absentee ballots filed in the race.

“We feel good about where we are as the early results come in, and I remind everyone that every vote must be counted. I have worked throughout my career to expand voting access and empower voters, and it’s imperative that all voices are heard,” Dinowitz said in a statement. Referring to the Feb. 23 special election in the 31st district in Queens, which was not resolved until March 18, Dinowitz added: “As we saw in Queens over the last few weeks, the Ranked Choice process will take some time and I encourage everyone to be patient while our democracy is at work.”

District 11 had been represented since 2014 by Andrew Cohen, who resigned after winning election to a judgeship. Ritchie Torres represented the 15th District in the central Bronx from 2014 until January, when he became a member of Congress.

With 96.6 percent of precincts reporting, tenant lawyer Oswald Feliz led the pack in District 15 with 28 percent of first-round votes. Ischia Bravo (21.5 percent) and John Sanchez (20 percent) trailed, with Elisa Crespo in fourth place (15 percent). None of the other six candidates snared more than 5 percent of the vote. It is unclear how many absentee ballots need to be counted in that race.

“Tonight, it’s clear that families across our district are calling for fresh leadership that will get results for our community. I am thrilled and humbled by the support our campaign has received from so many Bronxites, and I urge everyone to be patient as the ranked choice tallying takes place,” Feliz said in a statement. “Thank you to every voter who turned out today and over the past few weeks, and to all the volunteers who have dedicated so much time and hard work to bring meaningful change to our community.”

Under the ranked-choice voting mechanism, voters in races with multiple candidates can rank up to five names on their ballots. If no candidate wins 50 percent on the first round, the candidates with the lowest vote totals are eliminated one by one, and the voters who supported those candidates have their votes assigned to their lower-choice candidates until two candidates are left—and one is the winner.

The contests in the 11th and 15th districts ended a series of special elections that are bringing early changes to the Council, ahead of the regular 2021 elections. There was a December election to replace Andy King, a Bronx Councilmember who had been expelled from the body, and there were contests in February to replace Queens members Rory Lancman, who joined the Cuomo administration, and Donovan Richards, who became Queens borough president.

Ranked-choice voting, which applies to special elections and primaries, took effect on Jan. 1. It was not triggered in the Feb. 2 election to replace Lancman because James Gennaro won on the first round, but it did occur in the Feb. 23rd contest for Richards’ seat, with Selvena N. Brooks-Powers winning after nine rounds.

Ranked-choice voting was approved by voters in 2019. Its proponents argued that it would avoid the problem of candidates winning crowded elections with relatively small shares of the total vote—for instance, under the old rules, Feliz would have already won the District 15 race despite the fact that 72 percent of voters picked someone else as their first choice. For citywide races (mayor, comptroller, public advocate), ranked-choice voting eliminates the older method of costly, low-turnout runoffs to decide races where no candidate received 40 percent.

Low turnout, however, is still a problem for special elections. Absentee ballots will boost the numbers, but combined early voting and election-day turnout for the two districts that voted on Tuesday was abysmal: 8 percent in the 11th and 4 percent in the 15th.

The nonpartisan special elections fill the Council vacancies for the current term, which ends Dec. 31. The regular 2021 elections, in which many of the same candidates will run, kick off in June with a primary (early voting begins June 12 and the primary is on June 22) followed by the general election in November. The winner in November will serve from Jan. 1, 2022 through Dec. 31, 2024; because of redistricting, the next full Council term is only two years and there will be City Council elections in 2023.

In addition to the more than $1 million spent by all 16 candidates in Tuesday’s two races, independent spenders threw more than $362,600 into the contests—the vast majority of it, some $242,000, on Sanchez.

Empire State 32BJ SEIU PAC11Eric Dinowitz$8,583support
Empire State 32BJ SEIU PAC15Ischia Bravo$11,250support
Hotel Workers for Stronger Communities15Ischia Bravo$3,000support
Laborers Building a Better New York11Eric Dinowitz$8,156support
Laborers Building a Better New York15Ischia Bravo$5,235support
New York Women Lead15Ischia Bravo9675support
New Yorkers for a Balanced Albany15John Sanchez$116,165support
Our City15Elisa Crespo$12,436support
Our City15Ischia Bravo$1,436support
Our City15John Sanchez$2,436oppose
Our City15Latchmi Gopal$1,436support
Our City15Oswald Feliz$1,436oppose
Voters of NYC, Inc.11Dan Padernacht$6,429support
Voters of NYC, Inc.11Eric Dinowitz$49,050support
Voters of NYC, Inc.15John Sanchez$125,929support