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New York City Primary Vote Count In Disarray

June 30, 2021 by Dan McCue
Mayoral candidate Eric Adams mingles with supporters during his election night party, late Tuesday, June 22, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/Kevin Hagen)

NEW YORK – The ongoing vote count for the Democratic primary for mayor of New York City descended into chaos Tuesday night after election officials retracted their latest count due to it being “corrupted” by test data that was never cleared from a computer system.

The primary election was the first in New York City history to use a system of ranked choice voting to select a winning candidate and the huge mistake the city’s Board of Elections copped to at about 10:30 p.m. Tuesday night appeared to confirm fears it was unprepared to implement the new system.

Earlier in the day, the Board of Elections, which is jointly run by Republicans and Democrats, reported that Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams’ lead in last week’s contest had substantially narrowed after the counting of additional ranked votes.

According to the Tuesday afternoon tally, Adams only led fellow moderate Kathryn Garcia by two percentage points– and that’s with more than 124,000 absentee ballots still to be counted.

According to Tuesday’s unofficial results, Adams edged past Garcia 51.1% to 48.9%— a margin of 15,908 votes — after 11 rounds of elimination, with progressive candidate Maya Wiley in third place.

But then, just as the sun began to set on the city, the Board of Elections abruptly withdrew the data it had released earlier in the day. 

A short time later, the agency tweeted that it was aware of “a discrepancy” in its report on ranked choice voting results, but it didn’t initially explain what that discrepancy was.

Finally it released a statement saying that 135,000 ballot images it had put into its computer system for testing purposes had never been cleared.

“The Board apologizes for the error and has taken immediate measures to ensure the most accurate up to date results are reported,” it said in a statement.

On Wednesday, New York City’s current mayor, Bill de Blasio, condemned the uncertainty he says the Board of Elections has now injected into the contest.

“Yet again, the fundamental structural flaws of the Board of Elections are on display,” he said in a written statement.

“There must be an immediate, complete recanvass of the BOE’s vote count and a clear explanation of what went wrong. The record number of voters who turned out for this election deserve nothing less,” he said.

“Going forward, there must be a complete structural rebuild of the board. I once offered the BOE over $20 million to reform themselves. They refused, leaving legislative action as the next available recourse. After waiting hours in line to vote myself last fall, I presented a plan to remake the Board of Elections,” de Blasio said.

Also weighing in was America’s number one elections critic, former president and native New Yorker Donald Trump, who said in statement:

“Just like in the 2020 presidential election, it was announced overnight in New York City that vast irregularities and mistakes were made and that Eric Adams, despite an almost insurmountable lead, may not win the race,” Trump said. “The fact is, based on what has happened, nobody will ever know who really won. 

“The presidential race was a scam and a hoax with numbers and results being found that are massive, shocking, and determinative. Watch the mess you are about to see in New York City, it will go on forever. They should close the books and do it all over again, the old-fashioned way, when we had results that were accurate and meaningful,” he added.

The narrowing count and the novelty of ranked-choice voting — the primary was the first time the process was ever used in New York City — have many political observers concerned that the race could descend into acrimony.

Though Adams has said in the past that he would accept the results of the election, allies of the candidate were claiming even before the primary that a ranking deal between two or more of his opponents could be tantamount to cheating him of his victory.

Under the ranked-choice system employed in the contest, voters could rank as many as five choices in preferential order. 

Because  no contender won by more than 50% in the first round of voting, election officials had to begin counting voters’ secondary choices.

A final result in the Democratic contest is not expected until mid-July.

The eventual winner of the Democratic primary will square off against the Republican candidate, Curtis Sliwa, the founder of the Guardian Angels, in the fall.

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