The NYC Primary Mess
Eric Adams appears to have won a confusing race that isn't quite over.
Three headlines that more-or-less tell the story:
- AP, “Eric Adams wins Democratic primary in NYC’s mayoral race“
- NYT, “Highlights From N.Y.C. Mayoral Primary: Eric Adams Declares Victory“
- TPM, “Adams Leading After Newest Vote Dump In Tumultuous New York Mayoral Race“
The vote won’t be certified for several more days but Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams looks almost certain to be the Democratic nominee and, therefore, the probable next mayor of New York City. As the AP report notes,
Adams will be the prohibitive favorite in the general election against Curtis Sliwa, the Republican founder of the Guardian Angels. Democrats outnumber Republicans 7-to-1 in New York City.
There’s no reason to suspect any chicanery here but the sheer incompetence of the counting process will leave supporters of the other contenders confused and angry.
The TPM account illustrates this better than the straight news sources:
After the new dump, Adams leads former Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia by one percentage point, or 8,426 votes.
The updated tally Tuesday — delayed hours after the city board of elections predicted this round of results would be published — comes after a dizzying couple of weeks in the race, during which a BOE fumble punctuated the city’s first ever use of ranked-choice voting.
The Tuesday dump included tens of thousands of ballots cast absentee, and was expected to give a clearer picture of who will ultimately win. The winner of the Democratic primary will be the heavy favorite for the November general election.
Adams led the initial rounds of counting, but Garcia made up significant ground in the batch of ballots published last week.
Last Tuesday, the BOE threw the race into upheaval when it published new tallies, only to later cryptically retract the data with little explanation beyond a “discrepancy” in the numbers it was working to fix.
Late that night, the board explained that it had failed to remove sample ballots from the vote totals, skewing the numbers. It later corrected and re-posted the totals.
The snafu caused proverbial forehead smacking among proponents of the new voting system, which New York voters approved during a 2019 ballot measure. Those good government advocates worry that the BOE’s screw-up will scare off other states and localities from using the method. They’ve been quick to emphasize that the problem in New York was not specific to ranked-choice voting.
The NYC BOE is apparently notorious for cronyism and incompetence but, again, there’s no evidence that I’ve seen indicating anything other than the latter here. The combination of rules intended to maximize voting, including allowing absentee ballots to be mailed at the last minute, and a new ranked-choice voting system meant that there were going to be bugs and delays.
While he didn’t lead early, Adams had become the favorite late in the race. So much so that other candidates formed an alliance hoping to defeat him:
[S]ome groups have been keeping a close watch on particularly the Adams campaign, which raised concern when it attacked a last-minute campaigning partnership between Garcia and former presidential candidate Andrew Yang — a common practice in ranked-choice elections — as nefarious and specifically intended to suppress a Black candidate and Black voters. If Garcia overtook Adams during the rounds of counting, they worried, he may resurrect those damaging arguments.
But, of course, the whole point of ranked-choice voting is to reflect the true preferences of voters. Yang, who had been an early frontrunner, wound up getting so few first-place votes that he dropped out on election night. So, if his supporters truly preferred Garcia over Adams, it only makes sense that their votes get reallocated to her once Yang was eliminated.