Today, probably “later this afternoon,” according to a spokeswoman, the New York City Board of Elections will post new primary election returns, tabulated according to the rules of ranked-choice voting.
If all of this feels like déjà vu, that’s because this will be the second day in a row that the Board of Elections will have run the ranked-choice voting algorithm.
Yesterday, the Board ran the algorithm, posted the results, and then, following hours of comments from mayoral candidates and questions from reporters, abruptly took them down from its website, acknowledging on Twitter it had accidentally plumped up the tally with 135,000 erroneous test votes.
Today, the board is hoping to avoid similar pitfalls.
As was the case yesterday, the tabulations that will be released today will not factor in the more than 124,000 Democratic absentee ballots that were returned, and that in a race as close as this one, could prove decisive.
Ranked-choice voting, which is being used for the first time in a New York City mayoral race, allows voters to rank up to five candidates in order of preference. Then the tabulations begin, and the lowest-ranking candidate is eliminated.
If a voter’s first choice was the eliminated candidate, the voter’s second-choice vote gets counted instead. The tabulations continue until there are only two candidates left.
Yesterday’s erroneous results showed a remarkable tightening of the gap between Eric Adams, the Brooklyn borough president, and Kathryn Garcia, the former sanitation commission, who finished second. Maya Wiley, the former counsel to the mayor, finished in third place and was eliminated in the final round.
Today, New Yorkers will learn whether those results hold up, or were merely the product of an unfortunate error.
The chaos that engulfed the New York City mayoral race on Tuesday stemmed from a large-scale human error committed by the city Board of Elections.
The board had created about 135,000 dummy ballots to test the ranked-choice-voting software being used in several of the elections on Primary Day, including in the Democratic primary for mayor. Those dummy ballots had votes for candidates on them.
On Tuesday, the board ran a preliminary ranked-choice tally that was supposed to show the state of the race pending the counting of more than 100,000 absentee ballots. But someone neglected to remove the dummy ballots from the system, so the tally included both the dummy ballots and the more than 800,000 actual ballots cast by voters.
Hours after the board released the results of this contaminated tally, it realized its error and took them down. It said that it would rerun the tally and publish the new results Wednesday afternoon.
The results that were mistakenly released showed that the race had tightened considerably during the “elimination rounds,” in which the candidates with the fewest first-choice votes were removed and their votes were distributed to whoever the voter had ranked next.
Eric Adams led the race by more than 9 percentage points when only first-choice votes were counted. After the elimination rounds, he was only beating his nearest rival, Kathryn Garcia, by about 2 percentage points.
It is unclear to what degree, if any, the 135,000 dummy ballots were responsible for this effect.
The votes on the dummy ballots seemed to have been fairly evenly distributed among all candidates. Many of them appeared to have “ranked” only one candidate, said Rob Richie, president of FairVote, a national group that promotes ranked-choice voting. He said those factors made it less likely that the dummy ballots had a big effect and that it was likely true that the race had tightened.
The correct partial tally that the board plans to release today will not be the official final tally. That will have to wait at least a week, after the board has counted the 124,000 absentee ballots.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has criticized the Board of Elections in the past as an “outdated organization in dire need of modernization,” said on Wednesday that the ranked-choice fiasco that has plunged the 2021 mayoral primary into chaos was further proof that the agency as presently constituted needed to be eliminated and replaced.
“Yet again, the fundamental structural flaws of the Board of Elections are on display,” Mr. de Blasio said in a statement in which he called for “an immediate, complete recanvass” of the vote count and “a clear explanation of what went wrong.”
“Going forward,” he added, “there must be a complete structural rebuild of the board.”
In his statement, the mayor noted that he had offered board leaders $20 million five years ago to hire a consultant and enact a series of changes geared toward shifting day-to-day operations from political appointees to professional managers.
“They refused,” Mr. de Blasio said.
The mayor also reiterated his support for legislation that would make the board, whose structure is enshrined in the state Constitution, directly answerable instead to New York City officials, as well as for a constitutional amendment that would create a board that placed election expertise above partisan loyalties.
“It’s a necessary, fundamental change,” he said.