What to Expect as Early Ranked-Choice Results Are Released in New York

Absentee ballots won’t be included, but data to be released Tuesday could signal the way vote totals will shift as the field is officially winnowed.

New Yorkers will get one step closer on Tuesday to learning who their next mayor is likely to be.

Because an initial count of ballots showed that none of the Democratic candidates got more than 50 percent of the first-choice votes cast by those who voted in person last Tuesday or during the early voting period, the city’s new ranked-choice system has kicked in.

Voters could rank up to five candidates in the mayor’s race, and the Democratic nominee, who is almost certain to be next mayor, will now be decided through a process of elimination that begins on Tuesday.

Here’s what you need to know:

The city’s Board of Elections is set to reveal the first, preliminary round of ranked-choice results, which will give a fuller, if still incomplete, picture of how the vote totals are shaking out.

Eric Adams, the Brooklyn borough president, led Maya D. Wiley, a former counsel to Mayor Bill de Blasio, by 9.4 percentage points after first-choice votes were counted, and he was ahead of Kathryn Garcia, a former city sanitation commissioner, by about 12 percentage points.

A winner will not be certified on Tuesday, in part because tens of thousands of absentee ballots will not be included in the preliminary tally. It is also difficult, but mathematically possible, for either Ms. Wiley or Ms. Garcia to catch Mr. Adams.

The elimination rounds work like this: The candidate with the least first-choice votes is eliminated. Those votes are then reallocated to the candidates whom his or her voters ranked second. The candidate in last place after that reallocation is then eliminated, with their votes reallocated to second choices, and so on, until two candidates remain. The one with the most votes is the winner.

Desiree Rios for The New York Times

Not yet.

What will happen on Tuesday is essentially an exercise: It will show only who would win based on votes that have already been tallied — that is, who would win if, hypothetically, there were no absentee ballots. Later, after absentee ballots have been counted, the board will take the new total that includes them and run a new set of elimination rounds — the real ones, for the final result.

The initial ranked-choice tally may still offer an important snapshot of which candidates had the broadest appeal, as well as insight into how voters grouped, or excluded, certain candidates.

As of Monday, there were around 124,000 outstanding Democratic absentee ballots that had not been counted, and more might still trickle in until the deadline on Tuesday.

On July 6, there will be a fresh round of results that is expected to include some absentee ballots, and a more complete set of results is expected the following week.

The tally will include results for all races in which ranked-choice voting was used, including mayor, comptroller and City Council.

In the Democratic primary for comptroller, Brad Lander, a councilman from Brooklyn, leads Corey Johnson, the City Council speaker, by almost 9 percentage points. Mr. Lander has said he looks forward to seeing the tabulation process play out.

“Democracy is worth waiting for and we’re looking forward to seeing the ranked vote tabulation tomorrow,” Mr. Lander said.

Jumaane Williams has been declared the winner in the public advocate primary.

No winner has been declared in the six competitive primaries — five Democratic, one Republican — for borough president, but several candidates received close to, or more than, 40 percent of first-choice votes. Dozens of Democratic City Council primary races also remain undecided.

Desiree Rios for The New York Times
Hilary Swift for The New York Times

In most ranked-choice elections in the United States, whoever wins the most first-place votes ends up the final winner. But it is not unprecedented for a candidate trailing in first-place votes after an initial tally to get enough second- and third-place votes to surmount the gap.

In a 2018 congressional race in Maine, a Democrat, Jared Golden, defeated a Republican front-runner after votes for independent candidates were reallocated to him. And in a mayoral race in Oakland in 2010, the front-running incumbent lost after the elimination rounds reallocated votes to the eventual winner, Jean Quan.

In any case, the New York City mayor’s race is not over. A range of political observers say the final difference between the top two finishers will likely be closer than Mr. Adams’s 9-point lead after the first round of counting.

The campaigns of Ms. Garcia and Ms. Wiley have been busy with calculators, maps of voter-turnout results and various polls hinting at what share of other candidates’ votes will go to each of them and to Mr. Adams.

The data, they have said, suggests the race is tighter than it looks after the initial ballot tally, and that one of them could still win.

A new study by the group Data For Progress suggests that Ms. Garcia can still beat Mr. Adams, and that the gap between him and Ms. Wiley could be within the study’s margin of error.

The study sought to combine voters’ professed ranking patterns with their actual first-choice votes: Pollsters asked 601 likely voters on Primary Day how they planned to rank, or had ranked, candidates and then weighted the results to the first-place votes counted so far.

Ms. Garcia’s campaign, according to a memo shared last week, expects her to gain considerable ground in the absentee ballot count, because those ballots have been received in higher numbers in districts where she beat both Mr. Adams and Ms. Wiley — districts where in-person turnout was also very high.

Campaign advisers for Ms. Wiley last week mapped out how she could prevail in the elimination rounds. Their path to victory, essentially, requires Ms. Garcia to get many of Andrew Yang’s second-choice votes, and Ms. Wiley to get many of Ms. Garcia’s.

As Ms. Wiley’s advisers saw it: The top three rivals and Mr. Yang would split the lower-ranking candidates’ votes, with Ms. Wiley picking up a large share from Scott M. Stringer, the city comptroller. Once Mr. Yang is eliminated, Ms. Wiley would get few of his votes, but Ms. Garcia, they believed, would get many, especially in the heavily Asian American districts where she campaigned with Mr. Yang in the final days. If Ms. Wiley then led Ms. Garcia, she might inherit enough of her votes to take the lead.

The conclusion, as one Wiley adviser, Jon Paul Lupo, put it, was that “we’re in a nail-biter.”

The Board of Elections is confident that it will be able to certify the results of the entire election, including ranked-choice voting contests and non-ranked contests like races for district attorney and judges, starting the week of July 12.

Under changes to election rules that were passed last year, voters are allowed to “cure” or correct errors with mail-in ballot envelopes that might prevent their ballots from being counted. The deadline for receiving cured ballots is July 9.

After the board receives those ballots, they will run the ranked-choice voting software again the week of July 12. The results will be used to create the official report for certification.

The Associated Press will be closely watching the results that the board releases, said David Scott, the organization’s vice president and managing editor.

“Our standard is the same as in any election,” he said in an interview. “We will call it when we are confident the trailing candidates can’t catch up.”

Source: Elections -


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