Decision 2021

Citing ‘Quality Control,' Blundering BOE Won't Release Updates on Borough Prez, Council Races

The BOE did not say if or when they were expecting to release the unofficial and incomplete results, just saying that it would not be Thursday

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What to Know

  • The Board of Elections was expected to release another round of unofficial tabulations Thursday for City Council and borough president races, but opted not to do so, citing "quality control measures" being conducted
  • After an embarrassing error led to false results Tuesday, the city BOE released new preliminary voting tabulations in the Democratic mayoral primary on Wednesday, appearing to show Eric Adams with a slim lead over Kathryn Garcia 9 rounds of ranked-choice voting
  • With or without the error, the race for the Democratic mayoral nomination is far from over, as more than 125,000 absentee ballots have yet to be counted

A day after it took a second pass at Democratic mayoral tabulations following this week's debacle, the New York City Board of elections declined to release updates on races for borough president and city council, citing "quality control measures" being conducted.

The BOE did not say if or when they were expecting to release the unofficial and incomplete results, just saying that it would not be Thursday. Just like in the Democratic primary for mayor, none of the absentee ballots would have been included in the release.

In the initial Election Night results, which are nowhere near final, Democrat Mark Levine was leading the race for Manhattan borough president, while Vanessa Gibson had around a 5,000 vote edge on Fernando Cabrera in the Democratic primary for Bronx borough president.

Donovan Richards had an overwhelming lead for Queens borough president, while Mark Murphy led the Democratic primary race for Staten Island borough president. Republican Vito Fossella leads the pack among Republican candidates for Staten Island borough president.

And in Brooklyn, Antonio Reynoso held a more than 20,000 unofficial vote lead over Robert Cornegy Jr. in the Democratic race for borough president, the seat formerly held by leading Democratic mayoral contender Eric Adams.

The Board's second pass at Democratic mayoral primary results showed Adams with a slimmer lead over Kathryn Garcia than he held in the initial round of tabulations.

New York City election officials created doubt about the integrity of the city’s mayoral primary Tuesday when a failure to clear old data from a computer system led to inaccurate vote tallies in the closely watched contest. NBC New York's Checkey Beckford reports.

Just as in Tuesday's results, which mistakenly included 135,000 test ballots that were never cleared from the BOE's computer system, all three leading candidates received a fairly proportional number of the votes from rounds two through seven, when all other candidates were eliminated aside from Andrew Yang.

Once his ranked choice votes are redistributed, Garcia is able to leapfrog Maya Wiley for second place — but by the thinnest of margins. Garcia gained almost 36,900 votes that round, almost three times as many as Wiley, allowing her to sneak past with a difference of just 347 votes. That margin is far closer than the false numbers released on Tuesday showed.

At that point, Adams still holds an 11-point edge over both Garcia and Wiley, but the race between the final two candidates gets far tighter when Wiley's ballots are redistributed. Garcia gained 116,800 more votes that ninth and final round, as compared to Adams' 44,300. That leaves their difference at just 14,755 (Adams' 51.1 percent to Garcia's 48.9 percent), which is also lower than Tuesday's results showed.

A crucial caveat that will likely end up being the determining factor in the race for mayor: The unofficial results released Wednesday evening do not include absentee ballots. Those 125,000 ballots won't be added to the count until at least July 6.

Adams' campaign didn't question the veracity of Wednesday's results, instead touting the candidate as "the first choice of voters on Election Day" and said they believe the absentee ballots favor him.

However, Garcia has sounded confident in the past that the absentee vote would go her way. On Wednesday, she once again implored patience as the absentee ballots are counted, and said "every candidate should respect the democratic process and be committed to supporting whomever the voters have selected to be the Democratic nominee for mayor," a call echoed by Wiley as well.

Eric Adams' lead in the race for the Democratic nomination for mayor is at less than 15,000 votes, according to the new release that eliminated the test ballots previously counted by mistake. But none of the 125,000 absentee ballots have been counted yet, which will likely determine the winner. NBC New York's Gilma Avalos reports.

As the unofficial numbers were released, the BOE released a follow-up statement apologizing again the mix-up from the day before, calling the error "unacceptable" while also saying the problem doesn't lie with ranked-choice voting itself, but rather human error.

"We have implemented another layer of review and quality control before publishing information going forward. We can say with certainty that the election night vote counts were and are accurate and the RCV data put out today is correct as well," the president and secretary of the BOE said.

Critics said the mistake Tuesday by the city's Board of Elections proved that the board was not equipped to handle the new ranked choice system.

The BOE uses memory sticks to transfer voting data from scanner machines to their computer system. Those memory sticks, which were used on primary night, only collect data on first-choice votes, with a second set of memory sticks used to transfer the ranked choice data. Four of the five boroughs had the second set of memory sticks scrubbed of the test ballot info, but the Queens test data had not been cleared, sources told NBC New York.

“Yet again, the fundamental structural flaws of the Board of Elections are on display," Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement Wednesday. He called for “a complete structural rebuild” of the board, which operates independently of his office.

“I once offered the BOE over $20 million to reform themselves,” de Blasio said. “They refused, leaving legislative action as the next available recourse.”

The City Council’s Black, Latino and Asian Caucus — whose leaders favor putting a repeal of ranked choice voting on the November ballot — said in a statement: “Our members warned the public for months that the City was ill-prepared to execute elections under the new Ranked-Choice Voting system, and the concerns they raised continue to be borne out by the facts.”

New York State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins called the error a "national embarrassment and must be dealt with promptly and properly." She said that the state senate will look to pass some mode of reform soon.

Sources said that the test ballots are labeled as such, and the error would have eventually been caught during the later search for write-in ballots, which takes place closer to the time of certification.

New York City adopted ranked-choice voting for primaries and special elections in a 2019 referendum and used the system in citywide races for the first time in the June 22 primary.

Under the system, voters could rank up to five candidates in order of preference.

Since no candidate was the first choice of more than 50% of voters, a computer on Tuesday tabulated ballots in a series of rounds that worked like instant run-offs.

New York City's first ranked-choice mayoral primary is about to get underway. Ranked-choice voting is new to you? Kay Angrum breaks it down with something any New Yorker will understand: pizza.

In each round, the candidate in last place is eliminated. Votes cast for that person are then redistributed to the surviving candidates, based on whoever voters put next on their ranking list. That process repeats until only two candidates are left.

Versions of the ranked-choice system have been used in U.S. cities including San Francisco and Minneapolis for years and in statewide races in Maine. Final results could be several weeks away, with the final round of tabulations, which includes absentee ballots, expected to be released on July 6.

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

NBC New York's Gus Rosendale reports.

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

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.

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.

After 24 hours after polls closed in the NYC primary, many races have still yet to be determined — chief among them the race for the Democratic nomination for mayor, which could takes weeks to figure out. NBC New York's Andrew Siff reports.

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 chief operating officer of the city’s department of environmental protection, responsible for water and sewer systems.

Wiley, 57, served as counsel to 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.

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