As of Wednesday afternoon, with the partial counting of the Democratic primary votes for NYC Mayor, Brooklyn borough president Eric Adams has a commanding 32 percent of first-place votes, leading former de Blasio counsel Maya Wiley who has 23 points, and Kathryn Garcia with 20 points.
In any previous election, this would have been enough to send Adams to Gracie Mansion. But as New Yorkers are finding out—in case they didn’t know—either competing candidate could end up as the first female mayor of the city that never sleeps. It’s because Adams is not likely to reach 51% of the votes, which kicks in the Ranked-Choice Voting process, which on Tuesday asked voters to prioritize (rank) their choice of candidates in order of preference (up to five candidates.).
The nightmare scenario we drew for you on Monday recalled the 2010 Oakland mayoral race, when Jean Quan defeated the front runner through RCV, even though she trailed him after the first round of counting by 11,000 votes. Quan and a fellow progressive used the RCV to their advantage, each encouraging their voters to pick the other as their second choice. Quan became the mayor of Oakland with an advantage of about 2,000 votes.
When the first round of counting is complete, the candidate with the least amount of first-choice votes is eliminated. But we don’t want his voters to be left out, so we use their second-through-fifth choices and award them to the surviving candidates. Then we do this again with the next lowest achiever, and again, until one candidate emerges with a majority.
But fear not (if you’re an Adams supporter): a Citizen Data and FairVote late poll of 800 likely Democratic voters found that Adams was the top-three choice of more than half the voters – which would give him a huge boost for the final round of the RCV. In fact, Adams would have to be extremely unpopular among voters who did not rank him first – and that just isn’t the case, according to the poll.
Political consultant Hank Sheinkopf told the NY Post that although Wiley and Garcia will probably benefit from the second-ranking of their voters, Adams is most likely to receive the second rankings of Andrew Yang’s voters.
“The Orthodox Jewish voters go from Yang to Adams,” Sheinkopf told the Post, noting that the city’s religious Jews were split between the two candidates. In Adams’ case, Sheinkopf predicted, “you’re talking thousands of voters.”
Still worried (I mean, I hope we scared you good about how dangerous Wiley would be as mayor, see: Progressive Maya Wiley Could Win Today’s Mayoral Race for Coming In Second)? Don’t be. According to FairVote, a trailing candidate in a ranked-choice election ends up winning “very rarely.” In 128 ranked-choice races since 2004 where there was no first-round winner, a candidate trailing by more than eight points won only on three occasions.
Still petrified? Don’t be, because Adams also relies on the growing number of “exhausted ballots” through the RCV process. An exhausted ballot belongs to a voter whose five shots at victory missed and the ballot cannot impact the final outcome. The more exhausted ballots there are, the better it is for the front-runner. In a race with a very large field of candidates, like this primary, the number of exhausted ballots is likely to be high – favoring Adams.
We could go like this until July and still not have a final answer – especially as more than 200,000 absentee ballots are still waiting to be counted.
Incidentally, should either progressive lady manage to grab the lead, remember, this was only the primary. You can always vote in September for the GOP candidate, Curtis Sliwa. Maybe what this city needs is a Guardian Angel.