Democratic mayoral primary: Eric Adams' lead shrinks, confusion surrounds count

New York City resumed counting votes Tuesday in its Democratic mayoral primary, which went into a state of suspended animation a week ago. Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams surpassed the 50% threshold but his overall lead has shrunk significantly in an unofficial tally on Tuesday after 11 rounds of ranked choice vote tabulation. However, the tally doesn't include more than 100,000 absentee ballots. And the Board of Elections acknowledged an apparent discrepancy in the reported vote totals. 

So the race is far from over.

When voting ended on June 22, Adams, a former police officer, had a lead of around 75,000 votes over civil rights lawyer Maya Wiley, with former city sanitation commissioner Kathryn Garcia following close behind in third place. Those vote tallies, though, were highly incomplete. They only included a look at who voters put down as their first choice for the job. New York now allows voters to rank five candidates, in order of preference.

After 11 rounds, Adams' tally grew to an unofficial 368,898 votes, or 51.1% with Garcia in second place with an unofficial 352,990 votes, or 48.9%, and Wiley unofficially eliminated. But this tabulation doesn't yet include absentee ballots. At least 124,000 Democrats voted by absentee ballot in the primary, based on ballots received through Sunday. The Board of Elections was expected to start counting those votes on Tuesday. 

In a statement, the Adams campaign noted that these initial ranked choice voting results appear to show a discrepancy between the number of votes from primary night and the current tally, raising "serious questions" that the Board of Education needs to answer. 

"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."

On Twitter, the BOE stated it was aware of the discrepancy. 

"We are working with our RCV technical staff to identify where the discrepancy occurred," the BOE tweeted. "We ask the public, elected officials and candidates to have patience."

Garcia also urged her supporters to be patient. 

"We still have a lot of votes to count — don't get ahead of yourself," Garcia said on Tuesday. "New Yorkers have spoken. We just have to wait for us to hear their voices. We have always been about wanting to get work done for New Yorkers." 

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Garcia said she was confident that she has a "path to victory" but pledged to support whoever wins.

"Once all the votes are counted, I know everyone will support the Democratic nominee and that's exactly what I intend to do," Garcia said in a statement. "We look forward to the final results. Democracy is worth waiting for."

Wiley's campaign also released a statement saying the race wasn't over.

"I said on election night, we must allow the democratic process to continue and count every vote so that New Yorkers have faith in our democracy and government," Wiley said in the statement. "And we must all support its results."

Vote tabulation is done in rounds. In each round, the candidate in last place is eliminated. Votes cast ranking that candidate first are then redistributed to those voters' second choices.

That process repeats until there are only two candidates left. The one with the most votes wins.

Under that system, it is still possible for Wiley or Garcia to overtake Adams if more voters put them down as their second, third, fourth or even fifth choice in the race.

None of those ballots will be included in the city's first pass at ranked-choice analysis, meaning that there's a chance results could still change significantly. Elections officials plan on conducting another round of ranked choice analysis on July 6 that includes absentee ballots.

Common Cause New York executive director Susan Lerner is a big advocate for ranked choice voting.

"We have to be patient and wait for the final results," she told FOX 5 NY. "There are more than 130,000 absentee ballots still to be counted and that is far beyond the top margin between the top leaders in the city wide contests."

This is the first time New York has used rank choice voting. But now that it has come under scrutiny some are already questioning whether RCV is really working for New York. 

"What it tells you is the ranked choice voting system is new to New York — well, it's not working as well as people would have liked," political strategist Hank Sheinkopf said. "We don't have results. We don't know who the winner is and now we have massive confusion."

The Democratic primary winner will be the prohibitive favorite in the general election against Curtis Sliwa, the Republican founder of the Guardian Angels.

Either Adams or Wiley would be the second Black mayor of New York City, and either Garcia or Wiley would be the first woman mayor.

Adams, 60, is a moderate Democrat who opposed the "defund the police" movement and said that under his leadership, the city could find a way to fight crime while also combating a legacy of racial injustice in policing.

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He was previously a state senator before becoming Brooklyn's Borough President, a job in which he lacks lawmaking power, but handles some constituent services and discretionary city spending.

Wiley, 57, served as counsel to Mayor Bill de Blasio and previously chaired a civilian panel that investigates complaints of police misconduct.

A former legal analyst for MSNBC, she ran as a progressive who would cut $1 billion from the police budget and divert it to other city agencies.

Garcia, 51, is a city government veteran who ran as a nonideological crisis manager well-suited to guiding New York out of a once-in-a-century pandemic.

Garcia ran the Department of Sanitation from 2014 until leaving last September to explore a run for mayor. De Blasio also tapped Garcia to run an emergency food distribution program during the coronavirus pandemic after earlier appointing her interim chair of the city’s embattled public housing system. She earlier served as the chief operating officer of the city's Department of Environmental Protection, responsible for water and sewer systems.

Former presidential candidate Andrew Yang attracted wide media interest when he joined the race in January and led in early polls, but his support dwindled by primary day. He has already conceded defeat.

With The Associated Press