New York elections board blames mayoral ballot chaos on ‘unacceptable’ human error

By and ,

The New York City Board of Elections on Wednesday released its latest vote totals in the city’s mayoral race and apologized for what it called an “unacceptable” human error after 135,000 test vote records were mistakenly included in an initial tally.

The latest numbers show that Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams’s lead in the Democratic primary has narrowed since primary night, with former city sanitation commissioner Kathryn Garcia pulling into a close second place. The two are now separated by fewer than 15,000 votes.

“Yesterday’s ranked choice voting reporting error was unacceptable and we apologize to the voters and to the campaigns for the confusion,” the Board of Elections commissioners said in a statement early Wednesday evening.

They defended the city’s voting system, arguing that ranked-choice voting “was not the problem,” instead blaming “a human error that could have been avoided.”

“As we continue to count absentee ballots and run further RCV tabulations, we will do so with a heightened sense that we must regain the trust of New Yorkers,” the commissioners added.

On Tuesday afternoon, the board released numbers showing that Adams was leading Garcia by fewer than 16,000 votes. Hours later, the Board of Elections called those results into question, saying there was a “discrepancy” in the vote tally.

By Tuesday night, the board had removed all the unofficial results from its website and replaced them with a message stating, “Unofficial Rank Choice Results Starting on June 30.”

Then, the announcement of the mistaken counting of test ballots came around 10:30 p.m.

“Board staff has removed all test ballot images from the system and will upload election night results, cross-referencing against election night reporting software for verification,” the board said on its Twitter account. “The cast vote record will be re-generated and the [ranked-choice voting] rounds will be re-tabulated.”

[New York City primary results]

The June 22 primary marked the first time the city has used ranked-choice voting, and no clear winner emerged in the crowded Democratic primary, although Adams grabbed a comfortable lead, with civil rights attorney Maya Wiley in second place.

The city’s system allows voters to select up to five candidates in order of preference. If no one receives more than 50 percent of first-choice votes, the last-place candidate is eliminated and the votes for that candidate are redistributed to whomever the voters selected as their second-ranked candidate. This process repeats until two candidates remain. Whoever has the most votes in the final round wins.

More than 124,000 votes remain to be counted, with the final result expected to be known by mid-July. The winner of the Democratic primary will face talk-show host Curtis Sliwa, who was projected to win the Republican primary in the race to succeed Mayor Bill de Blasio (D).

[New York mayoral campaign centers on public safety as the pandemic subsides]

The eventual Democratic primary winner is expected to be elected mayor in November, because of New York City’s strongly Democratic bent.

Garcia said in a statement Wednesday night that she remains confident in her path to victory and called for her supporters to “patiently wait for over 124,000 absentee ballots to be counted.”

She also defended the ranked-choice voting system, noting that New Yorkers “overwhelmingly voted” to enact it, and called on all candidates to “respect the democratic process and be committed to supporting whomever the voters have selected to be the Democratic nominee for Mayor.”

Adams did not immediately respond to the news of the latest vote totals.

In a statement Wednesday morning, de Blasio, who is not on the ballot, called for “an immediate, complete recanvass” of the vote count and a “complete explanation of what went wrong.”

“The record number of voters who turned out this election deserve nothing less,” he said.

De Blasio also urged the New York state legislature to pass bills to restructure the elections board so that members are not affiliated with political parties and so that it reports to city officials rather than the state.

Former president Donald Trump weighed in on the election board’s counting mishap as well, seeking to compare the “vast irregularities” to last year’s presidential race. Trump has repeatedly claimed without evidence that he lost the election because of widespread fraud.

In a statement Wednesday morning, Trump predicted that the counting “will go on forever” and urged the board to “close the books and do it all over again, the old-fashioned way, when we had results that were accurate and meaningful.”

Adams, who would be New York’s second Black mayor, celebrated as polls closed last week, telling a crowd that “the little guy won today.” In a statement Tuesday afternoon, Adams said the vote tally was marked by “irregularities,” without providing further details.

“The vote total just released by the Board of Elections is 100,000-plus more than the total announced on election night, raising serious questions,” the statement said. “We have asked the Board of Elections to explain such a massive increase and other irregularities before we comment on the Ranked Choice Voting projection. We remain confident that Eric Adams will be the next mayor of New York because he put together a historic five-borough working class coalition of New Yorkers to make our city a safer, fairer, more affordable place.”

As the coronavirus receded in the city, public safety became the campaign’s central issue. Adams, a former police officer, sought to position himself as the race’s law-and-order candidate. Wiley, the only leading candidate arguing for cuts to the New York Police Department’s budget, appeared to outperform public opinion polls.

Source: WP