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New York City Accidentally Counts 135,000 ‘Test’ Votes in Primary Election to Select Bill de Blasio’s Replacement on the Ballot


New York City residents are the process of choosing a replacement for two-term mayor Bill de Blasio. Tuesday’s Democratic primary was thrown into pandemonium when over 100,000 “test” votes were accidentally included in the count announced by the city’s Board of Elections (BOE).

Voting procedures for the mayoral race have already faced sharp criticism over the city’s first-time use of “ranked-choice voting” (RCV). The goal of RCV is to reduce the effect of a split vote among candidates from the same party.  Elections that use RCV allow voters to rank candidates in order of their preference. Low performers are gradually eliminated and voters are then encouraged to cast votes for their second-choice candidates.

The problem on Tuesday, however, was not specific to RCV; rather, it was just a good, old-fashioned error. The BOE simply botched the count. Over 700,000 votes were counted in the election — but 135,000 of those had been “test” votes never meant to be included in the tally.

The erroneous vote count had only been a preliminary estimate (as around 100,000 absentee ballots were still to be counted), but it was meant to serve as a barometer for vote allocation within the context of RCV.

Original vote tallies had been as follows:

  • Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams with a narrow lead in first place with 253,234 votes.
  • Maya Wiley, a former counsel to Mayor Bill de Blasio in second place with 177,722 votes.
  • Kathryn Garcia, the NYC Sanitation Commissioner under deBlasio, with 155,812 votes.
  • Former presidential hopeful Andrew Yang (who has already conceded the mayoral race last week) with 93,291 votes.

The New York City Board of Elections issued a rather vague statement Tuesday night saying it was “aware there is a discrepancy in the unofficial RCV round by round elimination report.”

By later hours on June 29, the Board of Elections issued a statement that vote counts would be recounted without including the test votes, and an accurate count would be available by Wednesday, June 30.

Responses to the BOE’s error have predictably compared the problem in NYC with former president Donald Trump‘s repeated contention that there were counting errors in the 202o presidential election — a matter that ended in multistate litigation and motions for sanctions against those who pressed claims on the now-former president’s behalf.

Some sarcastically hinted that Trump himself might be selected as mayor by the end of the election.

Others have taken a distinctly more local view, commenting on the predictability of the BOE’s failure to get its job done correctly:

Senate hopeful and noted author J.D. Vance pointed to the error as evidence that the U.S. is “a third world country that takes weeks to count votes.”

New Yorker and media figure Geraldo Rivera pointed out an obvious truth, tweeting, “Last thing New York needs right now is an unreliable election.”

[image via Jewel Samad/AFP via Getty Images]

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Elura is a columnist and trial analyst for Law & Crime. Elura is also a former civil prosecutor for NYC's Administration for Children's Services, the CEO of Lawyer Up, and the author of How To Talk To Your Lawyer and the Legalese-to-English series. Follow Elura on Twitter @elurananos