According to local media, the NY Board of Elections on Tuesday did not remove the sample ballot images that were used to test its voting software (remember the ranked-choice vote?), so that when they ran the program, it counted the test results and the election night results, and created an estimated 135,000 voting records that hadn’t been there.
NY Board of Elections “failed to remove sample ballot images used to test its ranked-choice voting software. When the board ran the program, it counted ‘both test and election night results, producing approximately 135,000 additional records.'” https://t.co/5KxPqo6BGk
— David Jolly (@DavidJollyFL) June 30, 2021
As a result, the most fundamental expectation of a democratic election – that it would faithfully and accurately represent the will of the voter – suffered a major blow. This also confirmed concerns that NY City was just too big for the ranked-choice experiment, and that the city’s Board of Elections, run jointly by Democrats and Republicans, was unprepared for the new system.
The Board of Elections hurriedly took down the results it had released which indicated that Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who was leading the field by a wide margin, had lost his wide lead which was reduced to less than a 16,000 vote advantage over progressive candidate Kathryn Garcia. It looked for a while there that we were dealing with the Oakland nightmare scenario of a losing candidate emerging the winner thanks to the RCV.
The Board of Elections then tweeted that there had been “a discrepancy” in its ranked-choice voting results, and around 10:30 PM it revealed that those 135,000 pesky ballot images used to test the computer had not cleared. They issued an oops statement, saying, “The Board apologizes for the error and has taken immediate measures to ensure the most accurate up to date results are reported.”
Perhaps instead of adding this new voting system, New York should replace its board of elections. Last October, the NY Times reported about the rampant nepotism that paralyzes the current board (Inside Decades of Nepotism and Bungling at the N.Y.C. Elections Board), including this heartfelt paragraph: “The official who oversees voter registration in New York City is the 80-year-old mother of a former congressman. The director of Election Day operations is a close friend of Manhattan’s Republican chairwoman. The head of ballot management is the son of a former Brooklyn Democratic district leader. And the administrative manager is the wife of a City Council member.”
But wait, there’s more. The Board of Elections still has to count some 124,000 Democratic absentee ballots, which it would also drag through rounds of ranked-choice elimination rounds, meaning that the city won’t see the final results by the July 4 Day of Independence, nor by the July 14 French Bastille Day.
Also, inevitably, Tuesday night’s nonsense will bring on the lawsuits, especially by Maya Wiley, who appears to have come in a distant third. Wiley already called Tuesday night’s fiasco “the result of generations of failures that have gone unaddressed,” adding tersely: “Sadly it is impossible to be surprised.”
“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,” Wiley said. “The BOE must now count the remainder of the votes transparently and ensure the integrity of the process moving forward.”
And then she’ll sue.
The Garcia campaign, having just lost its phantom win, issued its own statement, saying, “The BOE’s release of incorrect ranked-choice votes is 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.”
On June 22, after the voting ended, elections officials released the results of voters’ first choices for the Democratic candidate for mayor—what we used to call primary election results. Adams was in the lead by 75,000 votes but fell short of 50% of the overall votes. And some day we might know if that’s enough to give him the win.