A day after an embarrassing error prompted the New York City Board of Elections to rescind unofficial results in the Democratic mayoral primary, the board issued new tallies of candidates’ shares of in-person votes on Wednesday that were similar to the original, errant totals.
Kathryn Garcia trails Eric Adams by a narrow margin in New York City’s Democratic mayoral primary after the city’s Board of Elections ran in-person results through the ranked-choice voting system, eliminating candidates until only two were left.
The results remain unofficial, because they do not account for the nearly 125,000 absentee ballots that Democrats have submitted. Absentee ballots are due to be counted by next Tuesday and official results are expected by July 12.
Still, the preliminary results provide a picture of how the leading candidates fared under the ranked-choice voting system. Following nine rounds of elimination, Adams, the Brooklyn borough president, leads Garcia, the former sanitation commissioner, in the in-person vote, 51.1% to 48.9%.
Before being eliminated in the final round, civil rights attorney Maya Wiley was catching up to Garcia. She received 29.5% to Garcia’s 29.6%; just 347 votes separated her from proceeding to the end in a matchup with Adams.
“The campaign continues to urge patience over the coming weeks.”
The preliminary outcome is a major shift from election night on June 22, prior to the implementation of the ranked-choice voting elimination system. That evening, Adams led Wiley in first-choice votes by nine percentage points and Garcia by 11.
“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,” the Adams campaign said in a Wednesday statement. “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.”
Garcia appears to have benefited from her decisions to refrain from attacking her opponents and to campaign jointly with entrepreneur Andrew Yang in the final days. Yang instructed his supporters to rank Garcia second, though Garcia did not reciprocate.
In the end, Garcia received slightly more of Yang’s votes after he was eliminated than Adams, and far more of Wiley’s vote than Adams after she was eliminated.
Garcia said in a Wednesday statement that the unofficial results show her and Adams in a “dead heat.”
“Well over 124,000 absentee ballots remain to be counted and the campaign continues to urge patience over the coming weeks,” she said.
Rather than turn on each other, the candidates have been in agreement about their disappointment in the New York City Board of Elections.
“Following yesterday’s embarrassing debacle, the Board of Elections must count every vote in an open way so that New Yorkers can have confidence that their votes are being counted accurately,” Wiley said in a Wednesday statement.
After the board revealed preliminary results on Tuesday, the Adams campaign and other observers noted that the in-person voting totals had increased by a much larger number than the board had claimed on June 22 had yet to be counted.
As the evening progressed on Tuesday, the board removed the results from its website. At around 10:30 p.m. Eastern, the board provided an explanation: It had mistakenly left 135,000 additional test ballots in its software system prior to entering in the actual votes.
The incident prompted rounds of mockery from public officials and journalists marveling at the agency’s elementary error and expressing concern about how the mistake would further undermine confidence in the integrity of elections. Champions of the ranked-choice voting (RCV) system, in particular, feared that the new system ― adopted by city voters in a 2019 referendum ― would take the blame for the entirely unrelated issue of board incompetence.
The president of the NYC Board of Elections, Frederic M. Umane, and board secretary Miguelina Camilo issued an apology on Wednesday.
“Let us be clear: RCV was not the problem, rather a human error that could have been avoided,” the officials said. “We have implemented another layer of review and quality control before publishing information going forward.”
The Adams campaign is not leaving the integrity of additional results up to chance. His campaign ― at first derided and then vindicated for questioning “irregularities” in the results ― has sued for judicial oversight of the vote counting to “ensure a fair and transparent election process.” The step, commonly taken by campaigns as a formality, will enable Adams to get a Kings County Supreme Court judge to review board actions.
Critics of varied ideological stripes are going further, calling for the state legislature to amend the state Constitution so local election authorities are run by nonpartisan technocrats rather than political appointees from both parties.
Others merely questioned why the board chose to release preliminary results at all without accounting for absentee ballots. Waiting for complete results might have provided the board more time to catch its error.
“Why they would put out an interim number is beyond me,” said Sid Davidoff, a city lobbyist with ties to Mayor Bill de Blasio. “The fact that they did it incompetently is a whole other question.”
A spokesperson for the board did not respond to a request for comment on the decision to publish preliminary results.