Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams declared victory over former Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia after around 130,000 absentee and affidavit ballots were counted, all but assuring his path to becoming New York City’s next mayor, the second Black man to hold the position.
In a statement sent shortly after the results went live Tuesday night, Adams said that while there are still a handful of ballots yet to count, the results were clear.
“An historic, diverse, five-borough coalition led by working-class New Yorkers has led us to victory in the Democratic primary for Mayor of New York City,” he said. “Now we must focus on winning in November so that we can deliver on the promise of this great city for those who are struggling, who are underserved, and who are committed to a safe, fair, affordable future for all New Yorkers.”
In recent days, Garcia’s campaign had outlined her path to victory as the “consensus candidate,” showing how she could eek out a win over Adams by collecting enough support from voters second, third, fourth and fifth votes in the city’s first ranked-choice citywide election. But when a majority of absentee ballots were counted, that did not appear to have come to fruition. Garcia still trailed Adams by 8,426 votes, a slimmer margin than last week’s preliminary tally but not enough to overtake the top spot.
Garcia declined to immediately issue a comment on Tuesday. Her campaign was consulting with her legal team about what the number of outstanding ballots means for her legal options, while she spent the evening with her children and family.
Once again, civil rights attorney and former de Blasio counsel Maya Wiley was beat out by the two more moderate candidates in the penultimate round. A margin of just a few hundred votes had separated in the first round of ranked-choice tallies, but once the absentee ballots were factored in Wiley trailed Garcia by 12,367 votes, or 1.4 percent.
In a statement Wiley stopped short of conceding from the race, and quickly pivoted to a critique of the city’s Board of Elections, citing the confusion of the past week when the Board had released results that mistakenly included 135,000 test ballots, and further frustrations Tuesday, when the board tweeted it would release results around brunch, though they didn’t go live until after 6:30 p.m.
“We will have more to say about the next steps shortly,” Wiley said. “Today we simply must recommit ourselves to a reformed Board of Elections and build new confidence in how we administer voting in New York City. New York City’s voters deserve better, and the BOE must be completely remade following what can only be described as a debacle.”
While the margins in the elimination rounds are narrow, in both cases it exceeds the half of one percent that would trigger a manual recount under state election law.
In the race for New York City Comptroller, the city’s chief fiscal watchdog and overseeing of the public pension funds, progressive favorite City Councilmember Brad Lander solidified his lead against City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, ending the absentee ballot count 24,683 votes ahead of Johnson, or 3.8 percent difference.
“Thank you NYC!” Lander tweeted shortly after the release Tuesday evening. “I promise to work hard every single day to help our city recover from the pandemic more just, more equal, and better prepared for future crises than we were for this one.”
Thank you NYC! I promise to work hard every single day to help our city recover from the pandemic more just, more equal, and better prepared for future crises than we were for this one. pic.twitter.com/Go019cbBxA
— Brad Lander (@bradlander) July 6, 2021
Johnson’s campaign didn’t return a request for comment right away.
Jumaane Williams easily beat back challengers, cementing his position for another four years as New York City’s public advocate, the third citywide office up for grabs.
In races for Borough President, apparent winners included Councilmember Vanessa Gibson in the Bronx, Councilmember Mark Levine in Manhattan, Councilmember Antonio Reynoso in Brooklyn and Mark Mark S. Murphy on Staten Island. Queens Borough President Donovan J. Richards Jr., was ahead of his challenger Elizabeth Crowley by a margin of just over 1,000 votes.
Elections officials don’t expect to officially certify the election results until next week. But with fewer than 4,000 outstanding absentee ballots expected to be returned through the cure process, it seems highly unlikely Johnson or Garcia could overcome either frontrunner.
The latest tally comes a week after the Board released its first ranked-choice tabulation that mistakenly included 135,000 test ballots. The Board was forced to retract those numbers and publish new ones a day later that showed Adams ahead of Garcia by just shy of 15,000 votes, and Garcia leading Wiley by just 347 votes.
At the weekly meeting of Board of Elections commissioners Tuesday afternoon several hours before the latest results were released, Dawn Sandow, the Deputy Executive Director of the Board of Elections called that snafu “unacceptable.”
“We apologize to the voters of our great city for this error,” she said. Sandow said the error occurred in one of the five boroughs, but did not say precisely which borough made the mistake, though sources on the board said it took place in Queens.
“We can say with certainty, this issue caused no votes to be lost, no voter disenfranchised, and no incorrect results to be certified,” Sandow said.
Following the latest debacle, a chorus of state and city lawmakers and other elected officials once again called for professionalization and reform at the city’s Board of Elections, known for entrenched political patronage and nepotism.
Some form of chaos has become the most predictable outcome of New York City elections of years past, whether it was the massive purge of voter rolls in Brooklyn in 2016, hours-long lines at polling sites during the 2018 election workers blamed on the rain, hundreds of thousands of absentee ballots sent to the wrong addresses in last fall. But despite all that, some board members at the meeting defended its performance over the last few weeks.
“We were in a Catch-22,” said Michael Michel, Republican Commissioner of Queens. “If we didn’t release the numbers…the newspapers and all would have said, ‘What’s taking us so long to release the numbers.’ And now that we released them earlier, we got slammed for making an error that did not affect the results of any race.”
John Naudus, the Board’s Director of Electronic Voting Systems, agreed.
“That’s correct,” he said. “The results were not impacted one iota.”
New York City became the largest jurisdiction to use the ranked-choice voting method, though it’s been used in more than 22 jurisdictions across the country, dating back as far as 1941 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, according to FairVote, an advocacy organization that promotes the use of ranked-choice voting. Of the major cities that currently use the system, places like Portland, Maine and Minneapolis, Minnesota provide their ranked-choice results on election night.
Other cities including Oakland and San Francisco, CA run ranked-choice tallies on election night and provide daily updates until the process is complete. Defenders of the system blamed the city’s Board of Election, rather than the ranked-choice system, for the turmoil of the past week.
“Obviously it was highly problematic to wait a week to be sure you’re getting it right and then get it wrong. That was New York’s big problem,” said Rob Richie, the head of FairVote. “None of this is intrinsic to ranked-choice voting.”