New vote totals released on Tuesday in New York City’s Democratic mayoral contest sharply narrowed the lead for Eric Adams, the Brooklyn borough president.
The additional votes left the outcome even more uncertain with thousands of absentee ballots still to be counted over the coming weeks.
Kathryn Garcia, a former sanitation chief for the city, was in second place, while Maya Wiley, a former MSNBC analyst and civil rights lawyer, was in third.
Adams alleged there were unspecified “irregularities” after his lead shrank. He held a considerable lead on Election Day a week ago, based on the initial count of first-choice ballots from voters who cast ballots in person.
But for the first time, the mayoral election used a ranked-choice system, in which voters could rank up to five candidates in order of preference. Tuesday’s tally was the first analysis of those choices, though it included no mail-in ballots.
Adams expressed confidence he would retain his lead and become the next mayor but questioned why the vote total increased by 100,000 from the previous count.
“We have asked the Board of Elections to explain such a massive increase and other irregularities before we comment on the Ranked Choice Voting projection,” Adams said in a statement.
The ranked-choice system operates as a series of instant runoffs. The candidate in last place is eliminated, and his or her votes are redistributed to voters’ second choice. The process repeats until there are only two candidates remaining, and the one with a majority is declared the winner.
After 11 rounds of elimination, Adams was ahead of Garcia 51% to 49%, with a margin of just under 16,000 votes among more than 700,000 total ballots.
Wiley was the final candidate eliminated; in the penultimate round, she trailed Garcia by fewer than 4,000 votes.
Tuesday’s count, however, did not include any of the approximately 125,000 absentee ballots that have been received, which could easily alter the final results.
Garcia’s campaign has said it expects to benefit from absentee ballots, which were turned in at high rates in neighborhoods where she did better than Adams and Wiley. In a statement, Garcia said she was “confident about a path to victory.”
In a statement, Wiley called for every vote to be counted and urged all New Yorkers to support the results.
Elections officials plan to rerun the ranked-choice voting tabulation next week, this time with at least some absentee ballots included. Final results are not expected until mid-July.
Last week, Adams had 32% of first-choice ballots, based on the incomplete results released on Election Day. Wiley was at 22%, and Garcia stood in third at 19%.
Andrew Yang, the former presidential candidate, was in a distant fourth place and conceded on election night.
The winner of the Democratic primary will be a heavy favourite in November’s general election against Republican nominee Curtis Sliwa, the founder of the Guardian Angels civilian patrol group.
Democratic voters outnumber Republicans in the United States’ most populous city by more than a six-to-one ratio.
The rise in crime dominated the campaign, providing an early look at how Democrats nationally might approach the issue of policing ahead of next year’s congressional midterm elections.
Republicans intend to portray Democrats as left-wing extremists who want to “defund the police,” a rallying cry echoed by some liberals last year amid nationwide protests over police brutality.
Adams, a former police officer who put public safety at the heart of his bid for mayor, vowed to reinforce policing.
Wiley, by contrast, argued for cutting one-sixth of the police department’s $6 billion budget and redirecting money to mental health aid and other social services.