The city Board of Elections in New York is facing backlash from mayoral candidates after it released a new tally of votes in the Democratic mayoral primary on Tuesday that it later retracted for mistakenly including 135,000 test ballots.
In a statement late Tuesday night, candidate Maya Wiley, who had placed third in the since-removed initial tally, slammed the elections board for mismanagement, insisting that the error was “the result of generations of failures that have gone unaddressed.”
“Sadly it is impossible to be surprised,” she added. “Today, we have once again seen the mismanagement that has resulted in a lack of confidence in results, not because there is a flaw in our election laws, but because those who implement it have failed too many times.”
On Primary Day last week, Wiley had appeared to trail behind top candidate Eric Adams. The results released Tuesday, however, indicated a tightening race between Adams and another top contender, Kathryn Garcia, placing Wiley in third.
The unofficial initial tabulations on Tuesday afternoon suggested that Adams’ lead last week had narrowed as more ballots were counted that appeared to boost Kathryn Garcia to the number two spot.
On Wednesday, the board released a revised tally of results from voters who cast ballots in person last Tuesday or during the early voting period.
The new tally, which replaced the retracted one from Tuesday night, still showed Adams leading Garcia in the final round, 51.1 percent to 48.9 percent, and Wiley eliminated after training Garcia by just 347 votes. The results, however, do not include absentee ballots.
The updated results come after the elections board acknowledged on Twitter Tuesday night that there had been a “discrepancy” in its initial report.
“We are working with our RCV technical staff to identify where the discrepancy occurred,” the elections board wrote at the time. “We ask the public, elected officials and candidates to have patience.”
In a subsequent statement, the board revealed that it had failed to remove 135,000 sample ballot images used to test its ranked-choice voting software.
The mistake meant that the ranked-choice numbers would be counted again, it said.
In a statement amid the chaos Tuesday, Adams called the error “unfortunate.”
“It is critical that New Yorkers are confident in their electoral system, especially as we rank votes in a citywide election for the first time,” he said. “We appreciate the board’s transparency and acknowledgment of their error. We look forward to the release of an accurate, updated simulation, and the timely conclusion of this critical process.”
Garcia also commented that the inaccurate count was “deeply troubling and requires a much more transparent and complete explanation.”
“Every ranked choice and absentee vote must be counted accurately so that all New Yorkers have faith in our democracy and our government,” she said in a statement.
The confusion came as the city’s elections board made its first attempt at rolling out ranked-choice voting on a citywide scale after voters approved the process in a 2019 ballot measure.
The ranked-choice process allowed voters to list up to five candidates in order of preference on their primary ballot. If no candidate wins more than half of the vote in the first round, the winner is determined through subsequent elimination rounds. Votes from lower-polling candidates in those rounds are redistributed to a voter’s second and third choice, and continue until a winner is identified.
In a statement on Wednesday evening, top officials at the elections board rushed to defend the process.
“Yesterday’s ranked choice voting reporting error was unacceptable and we apologize to the voters and to the campaigns for the confusion,” the board’s elections commissioners said.
“Let us be clear: RCV was not the problem, rather a human error that could have been avoided. We have implemented another layer of review and quality control before publishing information going forward.”
The Board of Elections will still need to count roughly 125,000 remaining Democratic absentee ballots. The final results of the ranked-choice elimination rounds are not expected until mid-July.