Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams appeared to take a fragile lead on Tuesday in New York City’s Democratic mayoral primary, but it could be weeks before it becomes clear who is actually on top in the first citywide election to use ranked-choice in voting.
As ballot-counting began on Tuesday, a plurality of Democrats ranked Adams as their first choice in the race.
It was tough to tell, though, whether that lead would hold. As many as 207,500 absentee ballots remained to be counted. Voters’ full rankings of the candidates have yet to be taken into account. It could be July before a winner emerges in the Democratic contest.
Adams, a former police captain who co-founded a leadership group for Black officers, was leading former city sanitation commissioner Kathryn Garcia and former de Blasio administration lawyer Maya Wiley.
Speaking to jubilant supporters, Adams acknowledged that he hadn’t won yet, and that under the ranked-choice system there were multiple rounds of ballot counting still to go.
“We know that there’s going to be twos and threes and fours,” he said. “But there’s something else we know. We know that New York City said, ‘Our first choice is Eric Adams.’”
Former presidential candidate Andrew Yang, who was far behind in early returns, conceded about two hours after polls closed and vowed to work with the next mayor.
In the Republican primary, Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa defeated businessman Fernando Mateo. Ranked-choice voting wasn’t a factor because there were only two candidates in the race.
Several candidates in the race to succeed Mayor Bill de Blasio have the potential to make history if elected. The city could get its first female mayor, or its second Black mayor, depending on who comes out on top.
The ranked-choice system, approved for use in New York City primaries and special elections by referendum in 2019, allowed voters to rank up to five candidates on their ballot.
Vote tabulation is then done in computerized rounds, with the person in the last place getting eliminated each round, and ballots cast for that person getting redistributed to the surviving candidates based on voter rankings. That process continues until only two candidates are left. The one with the most votes wins.
Concern over a rise in shootings during pandemic has dominated the mayoral campaign in recent months, even as the candidates have wrestled with demands from the left for more police reform.
As a former officer, but one who spent his career fighting racism within the department, Adams may have benefited most from the policing debate.
It won’t be until June 29 that the Board of Elections performs a tally of those votes using the new system.