One day after releasing flawed ranked-choice tabulations, the New York City Board of Elections issued updated numbers late Wednesday — along with an apology. The updated tallies show Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams maintained a narrow 2-point lead in the Democratic mayoral primary, down from his 9-point lead on Primary Night, with the top three candidates reshuffled as they were on Tuesday, but this time by much smaller margins.
These results are still unofficial and only based on the in-person votes cast during early voting and on Primary Day.
Kathryn Garcia outlasted Maya Wiley to come in second place, pulling ahead by only 347 votes after nine rounds of counting. Wiley immediately issued a statement pointing to tens of thousands of outstanding absentee ballots yet to be factored into the totals. “This election is still wide open,” she said.
Adams also sought to put his own spin on the first unofficial ranked-choice tally by noting that he continues to maintain his first place standing even after the new tabulation, which eliminated the lowest performing candidates and redistributed their votes to the higher performing ones.
“Our campaign was the first choice of voters on Election Day and is leading this race by a significant margin because we put together a five-borough working class coalition of New Yorkers to make our city a safer, fairer, more affordable place. There are still absentee ballots to be counted that we believe favor Eric–and we are confident we will be the final choice of New Yorkers when every vote is tallied,” a statement from the Adams campaign read.
For Garcia, who for a second day in a row saw ranked-choice voting results boost her just above her closest competitor, her statement seemed to signal that she was bracing for louder objections from her competitors should her numbers continue to rise in the next ranked tabulations.
“Every candidate should respect the democratic process and be committed to supporting whomever the voters have selected to be the Democratic nominee for Mayor. We look forward to the final tabulation in this historic election,” Garcia said.
The Board issued its own statement with results, describing Tuesday’s errors as unacceptable and issuing an apology on behalf of the agency. The commissioners also state plainly that ranked-choice voting was not to blame for the mistake, they were. Their oversight led to 135,000 test ballots being included in the RCV final tally they released (then rescinded) on Tuesday.
“Let us be clear: RCV was not the problem, rather a human error that could have been avoided. 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,” the Board said.
Based on the latest numbers from the agency, more than 125,000 absentee ballots have been returned and could be factored into the final outcome. Another ranked-choice tabulation is scheduled to be released in less than a week, on Tuesday, July 6th, which will include the absentee ballots elections officials have counted up to that point.
While the results may be triggering whiplash among the candidates and the city’s electorate, with some up one day and down the next, lawyers for at least two of the leading candidates, Adams and Garcia, moved decisively to file orders to preserve their right to challenge ballots during the canvass process. A spokesman for Wiley declined to comment on their next steps.
“Today we petitioned the court to preserve our right to a fair election process and to have a judge oversee and review ballots, if necessary. We are notifying the other campaigns of our lawsuit through personal service, as required by law, because they are interested parties. We invite the other campaigns to join us and petition the court as we all seek a clear and trusted conclusion to this election,” Adams said in a statement released Wednesday after filing orders with State Supreme Court in Kings County.
Adams is being represented by Anthony Genovesi Jr., a partner at Abrams Fensterman, the same law firm where Frank Carone, a lawyer who represents the Kings County Democratic organization and whose office space Politico reported Adams used for his campaign, is a partner.
Garcia filed similar court orders in State Supreme Court in the Bronx. Her attorney is Stanley Schlein, who was previously representing Andrew Yang. In a statement, she said her campaign was taking this step to, “preserve our rights under election law,” which requires that candidates file court papers within 10 days of the Primary Election, which means the deadline is Friday.
While the BOE acknowledged its own role in creating chaos in the primary, city elected officials spent much of the day blasting the agency for the fiasco it caused when it released the wrong results on Tuesday. Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has been pushing the agency to make significant management changes since 2016, called out the agency once again describing their conduct as, “deeply disappointing and indicative that the Board is broken, structurally broken.”
He also voiced support for state legislation sponsored by State Senator Liz Krueger and Assemblymember Nily Rozic which aims to professionalize the elections agency by requiring the commissioners to have relevant election administration experience while also empowering new executive management by making it clear which decisions must be made by the commissioners versus the staff.
“The situation in New York City is a national embarrassment and must be dealt with promptly and properly,” said State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins. She said the State Senate would be holding hearings “in the coming weeks” to push additional election reforms.
Since Democrats took control of the Chamber two years ago, Stewart-Cousins has made election reform a priority ushering in the passage of early voting, automatic voter registration, and expanding access to absentee ballots. But the state legislature has stopped short of supporting legislation that would fundamentally change how the Boards of Elections are structured.
For those opposed to the new ranked-choice voting system, Tuesday’s errors by the city BOE served to bolster their claims that the agency was not up for administering elections using it.
“They absolutely don’t have the capacity. We’ve had multiple hearings and questioned them about it. And they just have not demonstrated in any straight form or fashion that they have the ability,” said City Councilmember I. Daneek Miller, a co-chair of the Black, Latino and Asian Caucus, and one of the plaintiffs in a failed lawsuit last December that sought to block the city’s implementation of ranked-choice voting.
Miller is currently the sponsor of local legislation that seeks to repeal the ranked-choice voting amendment in the City Charter. That change was made through a ballot referendum in 2019 and Miller’s repeal would also require the approval of voters.
Meanwhile, Public advocate Jumaane Williams, who has been an outspoken advocate of the new voting system, made clear he believes the problems with this election are the result of failures by the city Board of Elections and not ranked-choice voting.
There are very real issues of voter suppression/disenfranchisement of communities of more color across the country including NYC. I join those who continue to raise them
Rank Choice Voting is NOT one of those issues. The software also worked as planned @BOENYC was/is the issue
— Jumaane Williams (@JumaaneWilliams) June 30, 2021