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New York City’s Bonkers Mayoral Vote Count

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People fill out ballots during voting in the New York primary election at a polling site in New York City, June 22, 2021. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

If you don’t remember Election Day of 2019 in New York City, you’re not alone. In that low-turnout year, thanks to a push by Common Cause to get the measure on the ballot, Gotham voters agreed by a three-to-one margin to amend the City Charter to implement ranked-choice voting (RCV) starting with the next mayoral race, in 2021. We were told that the adjustment would decrease negative campaigning and produce winners who had proved successful at building coalitions. Also it would streamline the voting process and save money by obviating the need for a runoff vote, previously triggered when no candidate in a party primary received 40 percent of the vote. Voting a second time with the exact same slate would be so tedious that an ultra-low turnout for the runoff would be expected. Who knows what kind of candidate might prevail in such a scenario? New York is weird enough without having to worry about such eventualities.

What is happening in New York City, though, looks more like a farce than reform. Eric Adams, the Brooklyn Borough president and ex-NYPD captain, all but declared victory after Election Day on June 22, when he surged to a nine-point lead among first-choice candidates in the Democratic mayoral primary, which is widely expected to render the general election a formality in an overwhelmingly Democratic city. In a crowded field of 13, Adams garnered an impressive 32 percent of first-choice votes last Tuesday, won all boroughs except Manhattan, and got the nod in most black and Hispanic neighborhoods as well as in the whitest borough, Staten Island.

Ah, but a week later, the Board of Elections ran those same ballots through its ranked-choice system, a nutty Seussian numbers machine that eliminates contenders one by one, and reallocates their votes to more successful candidates, until only two choices are left. As of Tuesday afternoon, it seemed as if this rejiggering had rendered a very different,

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