NEW YORK – The New York City Board of Elections accidentally included results of a bogus trial of the city’s new ranking electoral system in unofficial primary feedback released Tuesday – a snafu that wreaked havoc on the electoral process.
Balance sheets released on Tuesday afternoon showed that after processing the ranking tables, Kathryn Garcia was 2.2 points closer to leading Democratic candidate Eric Adams. But shortly after the results were published, reporters and campaign workers found that around 135,000 more votes were counted than on election night.
Three hours after the numbers were published, the electoral board issued a statement admitting a “discrepancy” and then removed the totals from its website.
After 10 p.m. on Tuesday, the board finally cleaned up with a statement: The “test” votes were never deleted from the table system and thus added the additional votes to the total number, which distorted the figures. The board said it removed all false ballots from the count and will run the results again – although it was still unclear when the new leaderboards would be ready.
“The board apologizes for the mistake and acted immediately [action] to ensure the most accurate up-to-date results are reported, ”the statement said.
The mistake drew harsh accusations from city leaders who were already wary of rankings, including Adams, the Brooklyn borough president, who had already begun to question the process.
“The election committee’s mistake today was regrettable,” Adams said in a statement late Tuesday. “It is vital that New Yorkers have confidence in their voting system, especially as this is the first time we are ranked in a citywide election.”
The candidate recognized “the transparency of the board of directors” in disclosing the bug and said he looks forward to “having an accurate, updated simulation released and timely completion of this critical process”.
The board said it would repeat the results on Wednesday, but the delay has already caused a significant setback to the process. Postal votes that could be critical to the bottom line will not be counted until next week. And campaigns lost at the end of the final reckoning are likely to file a barrage of legal disputes due to the board’s tracking of the elections so far. The worst-case scenario – a manual re-counting of votes – could delay a final result by months.
Maya Wiley, who finished second behind Adams in the first election on election night and remains a contender in the race, lamented and referred to the board’s mistake History of the headline errors.
“This electoral committee’s mistake is not just the failure to count the votes correctly today, it is the result of generations of failures that have not been addressed,” she said in a statement. “Unfortunately, one shouldn’t be surprised. ”
The city council’s black, Latin American and Asian caucus said in its own statement Tuesday that the board’s mistake had confirmed its worst fears about a bug-prone BOE introducing the new system in one of the most momentous city elections in decades.
“Our members have warned the public for months that the city is ill-prepared to hold elections under the new ranked voting system, and the concerns they have raised continue to be borne out by the facts,” the group said. “Despite years of hesitation in the implementation of the ranking list election, BOE had several months and four separate RCV special elections for the city council last winter and spring to ensure quality control until the pre-election in June, but failed here to provide timely and accurate results. ”
Susan Lerner of Good Government Group Common Cause New York said the BOE’s admission shows that human error was to be blamed and had nothing to do with the new electoral system itself.
“We appreciate the consistently pro-democratic message of the campaigns that it is worth waiting for fair and accurate results,” she said in a statement. “RCV’s longtime opponents, who are seizing this moment to attack a more democratic electoral system – poll results show voters have overwhelming support – are misguided and misleading the public.
Adams, who had a big head start in last week’s primary, had already begun casting doubts about the ranking system earlier this month and accused the electoral committee of failing to prepare voters adequately for the new system. The approach allows participants to choose their top five candidates in order of preference.
“Once again the electoral committee betrayed us and did not properly enlighten us and disseminate information,” said Adams during an election freeze in Lower Manhattan in early June. “It would be lucky if we got these results by January 18th. We don’t know how long this will take. I am really concerned about the result, I hope the count does not match the introduction. “
Despite Adams’s dire warnings, the New Yorkers seemed to accept the new system fairly easily. But the electoral committee’s tabular error is likely to lead to a number of complaints if the end results are tight – particularly from the campaigns themselves. Over 124,000 postal ballots remain to be counted and the race is still on.
In a strange quirk of electoral law, attorney Jerry Goldfeder said candidates must file all legal challenges to the trial by Friday, even though the full results may not be known for weeks. This means that if Adams Camp or any other campaign believes it ultimately wants to contest the results, they must go to court within days to reserve their right to sue.
“It’s crazy,” said Goldfeder. “And it has to be reformed.”