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New York City releases preliminary ranked choice vote count — and then pulls it

The board of elections accidentally included about 135,000 “test” ballots in their tally.

New York City mayoral candidates Kathryn Garcia, right, and Andrew Yang attend a campaign event on the eve of the city’s primary election on June 21 in Queens.
Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

New York City’s great experiment with ranked-choice voting continued Tuesday as the city’s elections board reallocated ballots from last week’s Democratic mayoral primary for the first time — and screwed up the count so badly they had to take it down and apologize hours later.

In a statement, the board explained that in addition to more than 700,000 real ballots, they had accidentally included about 135,000 “test” ballots in the count that weren’t from actual voters. And obviously that would ... throw things off a bit.

This was never supposed to be the final count, since more than 100,000 absentee ballots weren’t included in this preliminary tally. But it was supposed to give the first real glimpse into what reallocation could end up looking like, and the impact ranked-choice voting has had on the race.

The real, though incomplete, first-round results tallied on election night showed Eric Adams in first place, Maya Wiley in second, Kathryn Garcia in third, and Andrew Yang in fourth. But in a ranked choice count, what happens next is reallocation. The lowest-ranking candidates are eliminated, one by one. Then, ballots for eliminated candidates are reallocated to whoever those voters ranked next, if anyone.

The incorrect preliminary tally released by the board showed things getting surprisingly close after reallocation. But since they included so many bogus ballots in their count, it can’t be relied on. So we’re still basically in the dark about where things are.

The whole situation is an embarrassment for the city’s board of elections, which has long had a reputation for incompetence.

Update, June 29, 10:50 pm: This article has been updated to reflect the New York City Board of Elections error. The original version of the article analyzed the incorrect tally released by the elections board. References to that tally have been removed.