One Man’s Opinion: There is Something Rank About Ranked Choice Voting

You are easily forgiven due to the daily wall-to-wall critiques of Georgia’s voting law if you missed the fiasco that was New York City’s first crack at Rank Choice Voting during its recent wide-open Mayoral Election. On Tuesday, June 22, 2021, the Big Apple held Democratic and Republican Mayoral primary election contests, as well as down-ballot races for City Council and other local offices.

In a state which requires party registration to vote, registered Democrats outnumber Republican 6 to 1 in New York City. In a field of 15 candidates, there were 13 Democrats and 2 Republicans. Curtis Sliwa, a co-founder, and now CEO of the Guardian Angels (a nonprofit organization focused on unarmed crime prevention), easily won the GOP primary nomination. On the Democratic side, a diverse spectrum of candidates sought the nomination, from far left to centrist, with a contest and debate which increasingly focused on New York’s 60-year surge in violent crime and homicides.

In addition to explaining the Rank Choice process, New York law allows absentee ballots to arrive and be counted for 10-days following Election Day. The initially estimated date for Final Results tabulation and release for this election was expected to be Tuesday, July 13, a full three weeks after Election Day. Besides the stress, one can only imagine on the candidates during that time, what could go wrong? Well, the answer, not surprisingly is A LOT.

Eric Adams, an African-American and Brookyln borough President, was a 22-year veteran of the New York Police Department, who ran as a blue-collar, moderate New Yorker, very concerned about turning the tide of crime engulfing the city. Though it would take nearly two weeks for the final tallies to be released, Mr. Adams would carry every part and most precincts of NYC, except for the island of Manhattan. On Election Night, prior to the flood of late absentees, each of the top three finishers, were more centrist Democrats --Adams, former New York Sanitation Commissioner Katherine Garcia, and former Presidential aspirant and entrepreneur Andrew Yang. As initial tallying continued, Yang would be passed by the primary Progressive in the contest, Maya Wiley, also African-American and legal counsel to sitting Mayor Bill de Blasio, who would land temporarily in second place.

In that first round tabulation, Adams was above 30%, Ms. Wiley continued to move up to 21.3%, Ms. Garcia hovered just below 20%, while Mr. Yang fell out of the running. By late Election Night, the Adams campaign pointed out that the Election tallies exceeded by more than 100,000, the number of voters who cast ballots on Election Day before absentee tallying had begun. To its credit, the New York City Board of Elections almost immediately realized it had a problem, and election tabulation was halted, and the reporting numbers were temporarily pulled down. It was soon discovered that the board of elections had been running ‘practice rounds’ on the rank choice voting, as this was to be a first in NYC, and they had been ‘practicing’ with 130,000 pretend votes...only those votes were NOT removed from the system on election day, and they landed in the initial result tallies.

The error was corrected, pretend votes removed, and tallying begun anew. Adams’s lead continued to shrink, while the former Sanitation Commissioner appeared to most benefit. On Tuesday, July 6, roughly a week ahead of their final tabulation forecasts, the New York Board of Elections declared Adams the Democratic Party nominee for Mayor of New York. His ‘ranked-choice’ lead had shrunk, and also grown, to 50.5 percent. A close second-place finish by Katherine Garcia at 49.5%. Adams will face Sliwa in November, though most consider the race’s outcome a foregone conclusion.

Adams retired from the NYPD as a Captain in 2006 and was elected to the New York State Senate. In 2014, he was elected Brooklyn Borough President. Since securing the nomination, Adams has not been shy about pointing out that his may be the ‘new face’ of the Democratic Party.

I’m not suggesting any fraud or ballot counting conspiracy here, but IF you are a candidate, or passionate about a campaign, and find it okay for 130,000 votes to appear and then disappear and for 12-13 ballot tabulations to occur, largely via algorithm and computer to determine the final outcome...I would say that the stench of rank choice voting is strong enough to keep its spread to a minimum in the near future, if not indefinitely.

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