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Adams in Tight 3-Way Race for Mayor After First Ranked-Choice Tally

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Adams in Tight 3-Way Race for Mayor After First Ranked-Choice Tally

The New York City Board of Elections on Tuesday released a new tally of votes in the Democratic mayoral primary, suggesting that the race between Eric Adams and his two closest rivals had tightened significantly.

But just a few hours after releasing the results, the elections board issued a mysterious tweet revealing a “discrepancy” in the report, saying that it was working with its “technical staff to identify where the discrepancy occurred.”

The message seeded further confusion about the outcome, plunging the closely watched contest — New York City’s first mayoral election to use ranked-choice voting — into fresh uncertainty.

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Under the ranked-choice voting system, if no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the votes in the first round of voting, the winner is decided by a process of elimination: As each of the lower-polling candidates are eliminated, their votes are reallocated to whichever candidate those voters ranked next, and the process continues until there is a winner.

On election night, Mr. Adams held a significant advantage. But in the unofficial tally released on Tuesday, Mr. Adams, the Brooklyn borough president, led Kathryn Garcia by just 15,908 votes, a margin of around two percentage points. Maya D. Wiley, who came in second place in the initial vote count, was close behind in third place.

Mr. Adams had initially led Ms. Wiley by more than 83,000 votes after a count of ballots cast early or in person last Tuesday.

And the results may well be scrambled again — with any of the leading three candidates still competitive — as the Board of Elections awaits a count of around 124,000 Democratic absentee ballots. Once they are tabulated, the board will take the new total that includes them and run a new set of ranked-choice elimination rounds, with a final result not expected until mid-July.

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Some Democrats, bracing for an acrimonious new chapter in the race, are concerned that the incremental release of results — and the discovery of some unspecified possible error — may stir distrust of ranked-choice voting and sow divisions along racial and class lines when the outcome is ultimately announced.

If elected, Mr. Adams would be the city’s second Black mayor, after David N. Dinkins. Some of Mr. Adams’s supporters have already cast the ranked-choice process as an attempt to disenfranchise voters of color, an argument that intensified among some backers on Tuesday afternoon and is virtually certain to escalate should he lose his primary night lead to Ms. Garcia, who is white.

Surrogates for Mr. Adams have suggested without evidence that an apparent ranked-choice alliance between Ms. Garcia and another rival, Andrew Yang, could amount to an attempt to suppress the votes of Black and Latino New Yorkers; Mr. Adams himself said that the alliance was aimed at preventing a “person of color” from winning the race.

In the final days of the race, Ms. Garcia and Mr. Yang campaigned together across the city, especially in neighborhoods that are home to sizable Asian American communities, and appeared together on campaign literature.

Ms. Garcia appeared to benefit from that late alliance: In the results released Tuesday, Ms. Garcia collected 29.4 percent of Mr. Yang’s votes once he was eliminated; Mr. Adams won 24.8 percent, and Ms. Wiley took 10.2 percent.

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To advocates of ranked-choice voting, the round-by-round shuffling of outcomes is part of the process of electing a candidate with broad appeal. Mr. Adams has said that he would accept the results of the election, even as he and his allies have long been critical of ranked-choice voting.

But if Ms. Garcia or Ms. Wiley were to prevail, the process — which was approved by voters in a 2019 ballot measure — would likely attract fresh scrutiny, with some of Mr. Adams’s backers and others already urging a new referendum on it.

In its own statement, Mr. Adams’s campaign expressed concerns around “irregularities” between the vote total released by the Board of Elections on primary night versus the vote total they released for Tuesday’s tabulation, among other issues. The difference is more than 100,000 votes, Mr. Adams said, adding that the campaign was seeking clarity from the Board of Elections.

This year was the first time that New York City’s mayoral primaries used the ranked-choice voting system, which allows voters to rank as many as five choices in preferential order. If no contender wins more than 50 percent of the first round of votes, the winner must be decided by examining voters’ secondary choices.

While it is difficult, it is not unheard-of for a trailing candidate to eventually win the race through later rounds of voting — that happened in Oakland, Calif., in 2010, and nearly occurred in San Francisco in 2018.

The winner of New York’s Democratic primary, who is almost certain to become the city’s next mayor, will face Curtis Sliwa, the founder of the Guardian Angels, who won the Republican primary.

According to the tabulation released Tuesday, Ms. Wiley, a former counsel to Mayor Bill de Blasio, nearly made it to the final round. She netted 29.3 percent of the vote, just 4,000 votes behind Ms. Garcia, before being eliminated in the penultimate round of the preliminary exercise.

The release of Ms. Wiley’s supporters heavily benefited Ms. Garcia, a former sanitation commissioner, in the final tally; half of Ms. Wiley’s votes went to Ms. Garcia, 19 percent went to Mr. Adams, and the remaining votes were not allocated to either.

After the count of in-person ballots last week, Ms. Garcia had trailed Ms. Wiley by about 2.6 percentage points. Asked if she had been in touch with Ms. Wiley’s team, Ms. Garcia suggested there had been staff-level conversations.

“The campaigns have been speaking to each other,” Ms. Garcia said in a phone call on Tuesday afternoon, saying the two candidates had not yet spoken directly. “Hopefully we don’t have to step in with attorneys. But it is about really ensuring that New York City’s voices are heard.”

Rob Richie, the president of FairVote, a national organization that promotes ranked-choice voting, noted that 23 percent of ballots tallied so far did not rank either candidate. If that pattern holds for the 124,000 absentee ballots, then Ms. Garcia would need to beat Mr. Adams about 58-42 percent on the remaining 100,000 or so ballots.

“That’s a pretty big shift from where it is now, where Adams is two points ahead of her,” he said.

But Ms. Garcia has already come close to closing a 12-point election-night gap during the ranked-choice elimination rounds. He said that Ms. Wiley could not be counted out, either.

“If I were Wiley, I wouldn’t concede today,” he said. “If I were Garcia I wouldn’t concede, and I’d say, ‘Let’s count all the votes.’”

Ms. Wiley ran well to the left of Ms. Garcia on a number of vital policy matters, including around policing and on some education questions. Either candidate would be the first woman elected mayor of New York, and Ms. Wiley would be the city’s first Black female mayor.

“I said on election night, we must allow the democratic process to continue and count every vote so that New Yorkers have faith in our democracy and government,” Ms. Wiley said in a statement on Tuesday. “And we must all support its results.”

Mr. Adams, a former police captain and a relative moderate on several key issues, was a non-starter for many progressive voters who may have preferred Ms. Garcia and her focus on competence over any especially ideological message.

But early results suggested that Mr. Adams had significant strength among working-class voters of color, and some traction among white voters with moderate views.

City Councilman I. Daneek Miller, an Adams supporter who is pressing for a new referendum on ranked-choice voting, suggested in a text message on Tuesday that the system had opened the door to “an attempt to eliminate the candidate of moderate working people and traditionally marginalized communities,” as he implicitly criticized the Yang-Garcia alliance.

“It is incumbent on us now to address the issue of ranked voting and how it is being weaponized against a wide portion of the public,” he said.

Other close observers of the election separately expressed discomfort with the decision to release a ranked-choice tally without accounting for absentee ballots.

“There is real danger that voters will come to believe a set of facts about the race that will be disproven when all votes are in,” said Ben Greenfield, a senior survey data analyst at Change Research, which conducted polling for a pro-Garcia PAC. “The risk is that this could take a system that’s already new and confusing and increase people’s sense of mistrust.”

Dana Rubinstein, Anne Barnard, Andy Newman, Jeffery C. Mays and Mihir Zaveri contributed reporting.

Author: Katie Glueck
This post originally appeared on NYT > Top Stories

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Adams in Tight 3-Way Race for Mayor After First Ranked-Choice Tally
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