The latest unofficial count—which had yet to include more than 124,000 absentee ballots—showed former Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia gaining on front runner Eric Adams, though the BOE later said there was a discrepancy in the tally. The final results in the mayoral race aren’t expected for another couple of weeks.
Updated: 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, June 30 2021. This is a developing story.
The city’s Board of Elections released updated, preliminary numbers Tuesday in the Democratic race for mayor—only to pull that unofficial tally a few hours later, citing a “discrepancy” in the count, the first simulation of the new ranked-choice voting (RCV) system a week after the primary.
The BOE says the initial figures released Tuesday, which so far had only looked at ballots cast in person, mistakenly included an additional 135,000 “test ballot images,” and that the board must now recalculate the preliminary ranked votes. (The final, certified results in the race still aren’t expected for another couple of weeks, as the BOE has yet to include more than 124,000 votes that were cast via absentee ballots.)
“It has been determined that ballot images used for testing were not cleared from the Election Management System (EMS),” the BOE said in a statement posted on Twitter around 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, hours after it had initially uploaded the numbers to its website. “When the cast vote records were extracted for the first pull of RCV results, it included both test and election night results, producing approximately 135,000 additional records.”
Officials apologized for the error, saying they have “taken immediate measures to ensure the most accurate up to date results are reported.”
The since-pulled, unofficial numbers had shown former Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia gaining on front runner Eric Adams, the Brooklyn Borough president who predicted victory in the race last week, after eleven rounds of ranked-choice vote counting, with former de Blasio administration attorney Maya Wiley eliminated after 10 rounds.
But Adams—who has at times been critical of the city’s rollout of ranked choice voting, as well as Garcia’s decision to campaign alongside rival candidate Andrew Yang, who dropped out of the race last week—and others on Twitter soon pointed out the discrepancy with the BOE’s projections, noting it included thousands more in-person ballots than those counted on primary day.
“Today’s mistake by the Board of Elections was unfortunate. It is critical that New Yorkers are confident in their electoral system, especially as we rank votes in a citywide election for the first time,” Adams said in a statement following the snafu.
Garcia, who the BOE’s incorrectly-tabulated numbers had given a boost, called the error “deeply troubling” and called for a “complete explanation” from the agency.
“Every ranked choice and absentee vote must be counted accurately so that all New Yorkers have faith in our democracy and our government,” she said. “I am confident that every candidate will accept the final results and support whomever the voters have elected.”
Wiley attributed the mishandling to “generations of failures that have gone unaddressed,” at the BOE. “Sadly it is impossible to be surprised,” the candidate said in a statement. “Last summer BOE mishandled tens of thousands of mail in ballots during the June 2020 primary. It has also been prone to complaints of patronage.”
The board’s latest flub prompted some New York City officials to call for increased oversight into the BOE, with some pushing for audits of the entity — or a second referendum on the ranked-choice voting process altogether.
“We are hardly surprised by this evening’s announcement about the ‘discrepancy’ observed in the unofficial Board of Elections tally of RCV results given that the votes of nearly one million New Yorkers in the all-important primary election were entrusted to an inferior software program less than one month after it was approved by the State,” the City Council’s Black, Latino and Asian Caucus said in an unsparing statement late Tuesday night.
“We intend to advocate for a Council oversight hearing to scrutinize the City’s performance in every facet of its Charter-mandated implementation of Ranked Choice Voting,” the statement continues. “Additionally, the Council should now give serious consideration to the merits of Introduction 2326, which would enable a true majority of our city’s registered voters to determine this November whether to continue with RCV in future special and primary elections.”
Proponents of ranked-choice voting say that it is not the system, but the BOE that is the issue. Tuesday’s misstep is the latest from the troubled entity, which struggled last year to mail out absentee ballots to voters across the city.
It was not immediately clear when the BOE would post a corrected version of the unofficial tally, which had also included preliminary data on the ranked-choice Democratic primary races for public advocate, comptroller, and in the Republican primary contest for mayor on Tuesday. A note on the board’s website said unofficial ranked results would be posted Wednesday. City Limits has reached out to the BOE for comment.
The board is also scheduled to release another updated, unofficial ranked vote tally next Tuesday, though final election results aren’t expected to be certified until mid-July.