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Regional Interests

How The New York City Mayoral Primary Election Tumbled Into Chaos

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

New York City's mayoral primary race is tight. A new preliminary tally shows frontrunner Eric Adams with a slight lead. The latest results were posted after the Board of Elections had to withdraw its initial report Tuesday after they made an error. But there remains a lot of confusion over the city's new ranked-choice voting system and a lot of questions about the city's Board of Elections. Bloomberg reporter Henry Goldman joins us now to talk about all this. Thanks for being here.

HENRY GOLDMAN: Hi, Rachel. It's nice to be here.

MARTIN: We appreciate you. So I just gave the latest snapshot. Can you tell us, based on your reporting, where the race stands right now?

GOLDMAN: The race is tight. It's a jump ball. There are 2 percentage points separating Brooklyn borough president Eric Adams from former Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia. It's anybody's race to win, and it depends on 125,000 absentee ballots that remain uncounted.

MARTIN: So a lot of people are up in arms about the confusion. How much does the new ranked-choice voting system factor in?

GOLDMAN: Well, it factors in in the sense that it's new, and it's confusing. It was developed because it eliminates the need for a runoff election. We had 13 Democrats running in this election. Eight of them were capable of raising millions of dollars, and no one won more than 32% of the vote in a straight first place vote. And this kind of spreads out the power of the electorate to decide, you know, in order of preference. Voters were given five choices that they could rank in order of their favorites.

MARTIN: So in theory, this is supposed to work to give more agency to the actual voters. But it depends on a Board of Elections that's also working, and the Board admitted that they messed up. They issued this statement saying that the Board must regain the trust of New Yorkers. I mean, does this underscore a bigger problem with the Board?

GOLDMAN: Well, yes, it's a problem that's existed for almost 100 years, if not more, with a board that's divided evenly between Republicans and Democrats, which means that independents are disenfranchised in this system to a degree. And it's rife with nepotism and, you know, patronage. And, you know, everybody is somebody's cousin or wife or in-law, and they're not necessarily the most capable people in managing an election. And so we've had cases of long lines. We've had cases of machines breaking down. We've had cases of, you know, all kinds of mess-ups - 100,000 absentee ballots in Brooklyn that were faulty and had to be re-sent last year in the presidential race. It's a mess. And attempts to reform it have been very difficult because the status quo favors everybody if you're a Republican or a Democrat, and they seem to populate the state legislature.

MARTIN: Are there calls now finally...

GOLDMAN: Yes.

MARTIN: ...For real reform?

GOLDMAN: There are calls now. I wouldn't say finally, because it's been going on for a long time, and it may go on into the future. But, yes, this may be the defining moment for changes to the system.

MARTIN: I know this is up in the air, but when do you expect final results here?

GOLDMAN: Well, the final results will come when the absentee ballots are counted next week. At the latest, it will be July 12. There are 125,000 absentee ballots, and they'll be decisive in this race.

MARTIN: Bloomberg reporter Henry Goldman, thank you. We appreciate it.

GOLDMAN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.