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NYC Mayoral Race: Board Of Elections Says Test Ballots Were Counted With Actual Ballots As Part Of Ranked Choice Voting

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- It appears the New York City Board of Elections made a big mistake after questions were raised about a discrepancy in the Democratic mayoral primary vote tally.

The BOE said Tuesday night that 135,000 test ballots were counted with the actual ballots as part of ranked choice voting. The results have since been removed from their website.

The discrepancy started to unfold shortly after the preliminary ranked choice voting results were posted by the Board of Elections on Tuesday afternoon.

Those results appeared to give Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams a razor-thin lead over Kathryn Garcia.

Web Extra: Click here to see the latest election results

"I am incredibly proud of the campaign we've run. One of the best things about ranked-choice voting is that you can run a really positive campaign," Garcia told reporters Tuesday. "I'm excited about what we did. We're not counting any chickens yet until all this vote is counted."

The preliminary results that were initially posted had Adams with 51.1% of the vote and Garcia with 48.9%, with 15,908 votes separating the two.

"Even with today's ranked choice report, we are still waiting for more than 120,000 absentee ballots to be counted and we are confident about a path to victory. Once all the votes are counted, I know everyone will support the Democratic nominee and that's exactly what I intend to do. We look forward to the final results. Democracy is worth waiting for," Garcia said in a statement.

Adams, however, raised questions about the Board of Election's numbers, pointing out that the agency tallied 100,000 more votes Tuesday than on Election Day.

The Adams campaign also released a statement, saying, "The vote total just released by the Board of Elections is 100,000-plus more than the total announced on Election Night, raising serious questions. 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. We remain confident that Eric Adams will be the next mayor of New York because he put together a historic five-borough working class coalition of New Yorkers to make our city a safer, fairer, more affordable place."

The Board of Elections says they've removed all the test ballots and they will recount the votes.

Already critics are raising serious questions about the credibility of the board and its ability to execute elections.

The Black, Latino and Asian Caucus of the New York City Council is now calling for an oversight hearing.

Adams released the following statement Tuesday night:

"Today's mistake by the Board of Elections was unfortunate. It is critical that New Yorkers are confident in their electoral system, especially as we rank votes in a citywide election for the first time. We appreciate the Board's transparency and acknowledgment of their error. We look forward to the release of an accurate, updated simulation, and the timely conclusion of this critical process."

Garcia also put out a statement in response to Tuesday's development:

"New Yorkers want free and fair elections, which is why we overwhelmingly voted to enact ranked choice voting. The BOE's release of incorrect ranked choice votes is deeply troubling and requires a much more transparent and complete explanation. Every ranked choice and absentee vote must be counted accurately so that all New Yorkers have faith in our democracy and our government. I am confident that every candidate will accept the final results and support whomever the voters have elected."

Meanwhile, there are still tens of thousands of absentee ballots to be counted, which means Maya Wiley, who placed second on Election Day, could still pull off a win.

Wiley released the following statement Tuesday night:

"This error by the Board of Elections is not just failure to count votes properly today, it is the result of generations of failures that have gone unaddressed. Sadly it is impossible to be surprised. Last summer BOE mishandled tens of thousands of mail in ballots during the June 2020 primary. It has also been prone to complaints of patronage. Today, we have once again seen the mismanagement that has resulted in a lack of confidence in results, not because there is a flaw in our election laws, but because those who implement it have failed too many times.

"The BOE must now count the remainder of the votes transparently and ensure the integrity of the process moving forward. New Yorkers deserve it."

Board of Elections workers began counting those election-deciding absentee ballots Tuesday. The campaigns will be watching closely to determine where the absentee ballots came from, not only what borough but what parts of each borough.

Even before the apparent cliffhanger results were announced, Mayor Bill de Blasio had the following advice for both voters and the candidates.

"Patience and faith," he said.

De Blasio pointed out that the new voting system had worked well, saying that waiting a few more weeks for the final results is fine.

"We knew it would take a while for the full count. The important thing to remember here is unlike the past with a September primary, with a June primary the fact that this is taking a while to sort out is not going to cause any major dislocation. We'll know soon," he said.

The sheer numbers of absentee and affidavit ballots could affect the outcome of other contests, including borough president and City Council.

CBS2's Dick Brennan contributed to this report. Editor's note: This story was first published on Tuesday, June 29.

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