The sparring that preceded New York’s Democratic primary looks tame compared with the chaos around counting the votes. The city’s first “ranked choice” mayoral race has become a clinic in how progressive designs complicate the already messy process of vote counting.
The city that lectures Georgia and other states can’t even keep track of the votes. The city’s Board of Elections on Tuesday released an updated tally, meant to show where the candidates stood after several rounds of counting. Each round eliminated the candidate with the fewest votes, and reassigned votes to the next-ranked candidate on each voter’s ballot.
Got that? If you find the process confusing, so does the Board of Elections. The campaign of leading candidate
pointed out that the updated tally included “100,000-plus more [ballots] than the total announced on election night.” Hours later the Board of Elections admitted it forgot to remove older test ballots from its database before adding the primary ballots. The board released a corrected tally Wednesday night.
New York’s election incompetence predates ranked choice. Take last summer, when the Board of Elections failed to send ballots to some 34,000 voters until the day before the presidential primary.
Yet the complexity of ranked choice introduces new problems, such as making it harder for voters to see how their ballots shape the final result. New Yorkers adopted ranked choice by referendum in 2019, but before this year’s primary City Hall noted so much confusion that the mayor dedicated $15 million to a “voting education campaign.”
Complexity gives an advantage to candidates whose supporters study the race most closely, possibly those with the most education. The Board of Elections’ secondary tally indicated that many voters didn’t record all of their second through fifth choices. Many may have come from low-information voters with little time or interest to compare at least five candidates.
Ranked choice also opens the door to confusing alliances among candidates. The weekend before the primary
urged his supporters to rank
second on their ballots. The move was a blocking strategy against Mr. Adams.
All of these factors can leave voters doubting that election outcomes reflect the public will. Democrats have pushed ranked choice in progressive havens like Berkeley, Calif., and Minneapolis, on the theory that the system produces a winner with maximum demonstrated support. That theoretical benefit is more than negated by delayed, shifting tallies and overall voter confusion.
A late wave of absentee votes is another blow to New York’s election integrity.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo
last year signed a law mandating that absentee ballots be accepted up to a week after in-person votes, as long as they’re postmarked by primary day. That means the city is only beginning to count them, even as it continues sorting its ranked-choice mess. Democrats in Washington are bent on imposing absentee delays nationwide through their voting bill, H.R.1.
The Adams campaign on Wednesday asked Brooklyn’s Supreme Court to oversee the rest of the vote tally and invited the other candidates to join the lawsuit. Whether or not a judge steps in, the mess so far is another warning that progressive voting schemes create more problems than they solve.
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Appeared in the July 1, 2021, print edition.