Ballot counting in the New York mayoral race has taken a turn for the chaotic, with the city Board of Elections announcing late Tuesday that it had mistakenly included 135,000 test vote records in an initial tally.

Earlier Tuesday, the board released updated numbers showing that Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams’s lead in the Democratic primary had narrowed, with former city sanitation commissioner Kathryn Garcia pulling into a close second place.

But hours later, the city’s Board of Elections cast those results into question, saying there was a “discrepancy” in the vote tally. Without providing details, it asked candidates and the public to “have patience.”

By Tuesday night, the board had removed all the unofficial results from its website and replaced them with a message stating, “Unofficial Rank Choice Results Starting on June 30.”

Then, around 10:30 p.m., came the announcement of the mistaken counting of test ballots.

Kathryn Garcia

Democrat mayoral candidate Kathryn Garcia, center, posing for photos as she campaigns on New York’s Upper West Side on June 22. AP Photo/Richard Drew, File

“Board staff has removed all test ballot images from the system and will upload election night results, cross-referencing against election night reporting software for verification,” the board said on its Twitter account. “The cast vote record will be re-generated and the [ranked-choice voting] rounds will be re-tabulated.”

The June 22 primary marked the first time the city has used ranked-choice voting, and no clear winner emerged in the crowded Democratic primary, although Adams grabbed a comfortable lead, with civil rights attorney Maya Wiley in second place.

The city’s system allows voters to select up to five candidates in order of preference. If no one receives more than 50% of first-choice votes, the last-place candidate is eliminated and the votes for that candidate are redistributed to whomever the voters selected as their second-ranked candidate. This process repeats until two candidates remain. Whoever has the most votes in the final round wins.

More than 124,000 votes remain to be counted, with the final result expected to be known by mid-July. The winner of the Democratic primary will face talk-show host Curtis Sliwa, who was projected to win the Republican primary in the race to succeed Mayor Bill de Blasio, D.

The eventual Democratic primary winner probably will be elected mayor in November because of New York City’s strongly Democratic bent.

In a statement Wednesday, de Blasio, who is not on the ballot, called for “an immediate, complete recanvass” of the vote count and a “complete explanation of what went wrong.”

“The record number of voters who turned out this election deserve nothing less,” he said.

De Blasio also urged the New York state legislature to pass bills to restructure the elections board so that members are not affiliated with political parties and so that it reports to city officials rather than the state.

In an interview with CNN on Wednesday, Garcia said she hopes the issue with test ballots could be quickly resolved, but she criticized the elections board.

“It seems that this was a straightforward mistake,” Garcia said.

She added: “This has always been an organization that I thought needs more professionalism.”

Earlier Wednesday morning, former president Donald Trump weighed in on the election board’s counting mishap, seeking to compare the “vast irregularities” to last year’s presidential race. Trump has repeatedly claimed without evidence that he lost the election because of widespread fraud.

In a statement, Trump predicted the counting “will go on forever” and urged the board to “close the books and do it all over again, the old-fashioned way, when we had results that were accurate and meaningful.”

Adams, who would be New York’s second Black mayor, celebrated as polls closed last week, telling a crowd that “the little guy won today.” In a statement Tuesday afternoon, Adams said the vote tally was marked by “irregularities,” without providing further details.

“The vote total just released by the Board of Elections is 100,000-plus more than the total announced on election night, raising serious questions,” the statement said. “We have asked the Board of Elections to explain such a massive increase and other irregularities before we comment on the Ranked Choice Voting projection. We remain confident that Eric Adams will be the next mayor of New York because he put together a historic five-borough working class coalition of New Yorkers to make our city a safer, fairer, more affordable place.”

As the coronavirus receded in the city, public safety became the campaign’s central issue. Adams, a former police officer, sought to position himself as the race’s law-and-order candidate. Wiley, the only leading candidate arguing for cuts to the New York Police Department’s budget, appeared to outperform public opinion polls.


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