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What is going on with the New York mayoral election?

Let’s start off with some context. 

Why is this election important?

The New York Mayor looks after a lot of people. Generally, the Mayor looks after public services like schools, police departments, as well as overseeing legislation and the city’s budget. New York City (not the state, the city alone) has a bigger population than 40 of the 50 states in the U.S. It’s a big responsibility, and the elections are a big deal. 

What happened recently? 

This mayoral election is different to previous ones. This time around, New York adopted a ranked-choice voting system (which is very similar to the preferential voting system that we use in Australia when we vote for the Prime Minister). This system in New York requires voters to list up to five candidates on their ballot in preferential order, rather than simply vote for one candidate. This has been controversial, with many sceptical of the change in the voting system. 

Last month marked the Democratic and Republican primaries for the New York mayoral election. An easy way to understand primaries is to look at them as a mini election before the actual election. Voters show support for certain candidates in a primary (and there are usually lots of candidates to choose from). The idea of the primary is to narrow the field of candidates for a given election. 

Results from the New York primaries are being released incrementally. A few hours after the preliminary results were released on Tuesday last week U.S. time, the Board of Elections tweeted that there was a “discrepancy” in the report. Remember how New York adopted the ranked-choice voting system? Turns out that “discrepancy” ended up being sample ballot images that were not deleted from the system used to test its ranked-choice voting software. That night, the board released a statement saying that they had counted “both test and election night results, producing approximately 135,000 additional records”. 

Expectedly, this has added a lot of confusion about the results of the preliminary votes. The Board now has to re-sort through those votes, as well as count an additional 124,000 Democratic absentee ballots. Once those votes are counted, the Board will take the new total and run a new set of ranked-choice elimination rounds. A result for the primary is not expected until mid-July. 

So, do we know who is in the lead? 

For the Republican Party, the identified nominee is Curtis Sliwa. The Democratic nominee is where it becomes a little confusing and there is no winner like there is for the Republican Party just yet. Eric Adams is in the lead with 358,521 votes (51.1%), followed by Kathryn Garcia with 343,766 votes (48.9%). 

The 2021 New York City mayoral election will be on November 2. 

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