News & Politics

Screw Ups, Chaos, and Confusion: Ranked-Choice Voting Destroying the NY Mayor's Race

(AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

A truly surreal situation is unfolding as the votes are being tallied in the New York City mayor’s race. It appears that “ranked-choice voting” has reduced the lead of Eric Adams, the former cop and Brooklyn borough president, to just 16,000 votes. On primary night last week, Adams was coasting after receiving 31 percent of the vote to his closest rival Kathryn Garcia’s 19 percent.

But ranked-choice voting came into play because Adams didn’t receive 50 percent of the vote. In ranked-choice voting, voters can list up to five candidates on their ballots in order of preference. “If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of first-choice votes in the first round, the winner is decided by a process of elimination: As the lower-polling candidates are eliminated, their votes are reallocated to whichever candidate those voters ranked next, and the process continues until there is a winner” according to the New York Times.

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The process not only led to voter confusion but also confused local election officials in New York. After promising to release the first batch of ranked-choice ballots on Tuesday, the board of elections was forced to “retract” the results because they had accidentally failed to remove 150,000 images of ballots designed to test the ranked-choice voting system.

A clusterfark to be sure.

For his part, Adams is livid.

“The vote total just released by the Board of Elections is 100,000-plus more than the total announced on election night, raising serious questions,” Adams wrote. He questioned the results and the process. But because he’s a black Democrat, it’s OK, isn’t it?

“We have asked the Board of Elections to explain such a massive increase and other irregularities before we comment on the Rank Choice Voting projection. We remain confident that Eric Adams will be the next mayor of New York because he put together a historic five-borough working-class coalition of New Yorkers to make our city a safer, fairer, more affordable place,” the statement read.

Ranked-choice voting is supposed to be fairer and more just than the plain old regular, old-fashioned “most votes win” system. The mayor’s race had 11 candidates running so it wasn’t likely that any one candidate would receive 50 percent.

What happens in grown-up states when that occurs is a “runoff election” with the top two vote-getters squaring off in another election a few weeks later for all the marbles. But that’s not half as fun as confusing voters, candidates, and even election officials. That’s entertainment.

The problem for the left with that system is that it’s unfair — to them. Left-wing candidates who might not be the number one choice of most people might be the second or third choice. The only way for them to win is to scrap the winner-take-all system and confuse the hell out of voters. So the chances are pretty good that the second-place finisher will come close enough after all the ranked votes are tabulated to challenge the results or perhaps even win outright.

By the way, every “democracy reformer” is excited about everyone adopting rank-choice voting. Even without the snafu with the test votes, it’s sensible to ask: “What could go wrong?”

The results may well be scrambled again: Even after the Board of Elections sorts through the preliminary tally, it must count around 124,000 Democratic absentee ballots. Once they are tabulated, the board will take the new total that includes them and run a new set of ranked-choice elimination rounds, with a final result not expected until mid-July.

It’s obvious that New York elections have lost any semblance of credibility. Who’s going to accept results in July from a primary held in June?

If there’s an effort in your town or city to switch to ranked voting, get off your couch and make your voice heard in opposition.