New York City will re-do its first rounds of ranked-choice voting after accidentally including 135,000 test votes in official results

A voter receives her ballot in New York City's June 22 mayoral election
A voter receives her ballot at Frank McCourt High School, in New York, Tuesday, June 22, 2021.

  • New York City officials accidentally included 135,000 test votes in their ranked-choice vote tallies.
  • The Board of Elections announced it will re-upload, re-tally, and re-tabulate votes on Wednesday.
  • New York City is using ranked-choice voting for the first time for mayoral and other races.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

New York City officials are re-doing the first rounds of ranked-choice vote tabulations for the city’s mayoral, borough-wide, and council elections after mistakenly including 135,000 test votes in their election data reporting system used to relay results to the public.

The city’s Board of Elections announced in a Tuesday night statement that “ballot images used for testing were not cleared from the Election Management System” used for reporting and tallying the results of ranked-choice votes.

The Board plans to remove the dummy test votes from the cast vote record, re-upload election night results, re-generate the cast vote record, and then re-run ranked-choice rounds.

Unofficial, unranked election night results from only early and Election Day in-person votes showed Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams in the lead, followed by New York City Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia and civil rights attorney Maya Wiley. Over 120,000 absentee ballots cast in the Democratic primary have yet to be counted and tabulated.

Since no candidate won over 50% of the vote outright in the Democratic mayoral primary, the votes earned by the candidate who comes in last place are redistributed up to the next-best performing candidate. The process then continues up the chain until one candidate finally earns a majority of the vote.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Board of Elections ran the first 10 rounds of ranked-choice runoffs based on incomplete in-person election results with no absentees. The first set of rounds placed Adams and Garcia neck-and-neck, with Adams holding 51.1% of the vote compared to 48.9% for Garcia.

But after keen-eyed observers and the campaigns of Adams and Aaron Foldenauer noted potential inconsistencies in the reported data, the Board of Elections tweeted that it was “aware of a discrepancy in the unofficial RCV round by round elimination report” and was “working with our RCV technical staff to identify where the discrepancy occurred.”

The Board then took all existing election results off their site, posting a message that “unofficial rank choice results” would start on June 30.

The latest debacle is a major stumble in the city’s rollout of ranked-choice voting, which was approved by voters in a 2019 ballot initiative and is being used for the first time in 2021 mayoral, borough president, comptroller, and city council races.

This also marks the latest inflection point in decades of incompetence and dysfunction for the troubled New York City Board of Elections, which has struggled with administering elections and maintaining voter rolls in the recent past.

It has also long been criticized for being a forum for rampant nepotism and political patronage.

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