NYC Board of Elections Mistallies Votes – What Now?

July 2, 2021

Photo courtesy of Karsten Moran for The New York Times

On the night of June 29th, the NYC Board of Elections released the vote total for the Democratic primary of the mayoral race. In this first set of tabulated ranked-choice voting results, Eric Adams led with 51.1% of the votes and Kathryn Garcia followed with 48.9%, surpassing Maya Wiley who was previously holding second place. Eric Adams quickly realized, however, that the numbers were off. In a statement he released following the BOE’s results, he questioned why “the vote total released by the Board of Elections is 100,000-plus more than the total announced on election night, raising serious questions.” 

Within hours the Board removed the data and acknowledged a “discrepancy in its counting process. The discrepancy resulted from the Board counting 135,000 test vote records into the initial tally; these votes had failed to be cleared from the prequalification of the system conducted pre-elections. Although the extent to which this mistake will affect the count remains unclear, the Board announced in a statement that it has “removed all test ballot images from the system, will upload election night results after cross-referencing against election night reporting software for verification, will regenerate the cast vote record and will retabulate the RCV rounds.” 

This mistake has not been taken lightly, especially considering the Board’s already-tainted reputation. New Yorkers had already criticized the Board for engaging in political patronage and were worried about the Board’s ability to competently manage the ranked-choice system before it was put into action. Last night’s fiasco only reaffirmed their fears that the Board is not only incapable of doing the latter but also that it might have opened the floodgates to support for new suppressive voting laws that conservatives want to pass in the future, whether they are proposed on a state or municipal level. 

The top mayoral candidates also released statements stating their dissatisfaction with the Board. Maya Wiley attributed the mistake to “generations of failures that have gone unaddressed” and “mismanagement that has resulted in a lack of confidence in results because those who implement it have failed too many times.” Kathryn Garcia defended the voting system while raising concerns about the potential for the Board’s mistake to “undermine New Yorkers’ confidence in the electoral system.” Eric Adams, though he was the first one to point out the discrepancy, instead thanked the Board for its swift response. 

What to do now?

Last night’s count is not final, and it only included early in-person and Election Day votes. Whatever the new numbers will be once they are released will still not include the over 120,000 absentee ballots that remain uncounted. 

The next round of ballot tabulations will likely be announced next week, although they won’t be finished nor certified for another two weeks after that. 

The Board has declared that the official winner for the race for mayor will not be declared before the week of July 12th.

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