The Morning: The mess in New York

Plus an Instagram whodunit

Good morning. We make sense of the mess in New York's mayoral election.

Board of Elections volunteers counted absentee ballots in Queens yesterday.Dave Sanders for The New York Times

'The most botched election results'

New York City released another round of results in the Democratic mayoral primary — and city officials insist that they're accurate this time. They say they have resolved the "discrepancy" that caused them to report inaccurate results on Tuesday from their new ranked-choice voting system.

Today's newsletter tries to sort through the mess.

Does ranked choice have to be so complicated?

No.

In a ranked-choice system, voters don't select only one candidate. They can rank several, in order. The goal is to let people both note their first choices and also state a preference among the others. It's become increasingly popular in recent years.

Several cities — including Minneapolis; Portland, Maine; and Santa Fe, N.M. — manage to conduct ranked-choice voting and announce results on election night. The cities scan the ballots, and computers quickly tabulate the results, as Rob Richie, the president of FairVote, a group that advocates ranked-choice voting, told me.

Tabulating the results of a ranked-choice election is not a difficult process for modern computers.

What's New York's problem?

The slow and flawed counting of ballots is part of the city's broader problems with election administration. The New York City Board of Elections has suffered from "decades of nepotism and bungling," a Times investigation by Brian M. Rosenthal and Michael Rothfeld found last year.

As their story explained:

As the workings of American democracy have become more complex — with sophisticated technology, early voting and the threat of foreign interference — New York has clung to a century-old system of local election administration that is one of the last vestiges of pure patronage in government, a relic from the era of powerful political clubhouses and Tammany Hall. …

Some staffers read or watch Netflix at the office, the employees said. Others regularly fail to show up for work, with no fear of discipline. Several employees said some staffers punch in and then leave to go shopping or to the gym.

(Here's a new Times story about recent chaos at the elections board.)

How is this allowed?

Part of the issue is New York State. Unlike most states, New York lets party leaders fill local election boards, rather than staffing them with nonpartisan experts.

New York State has also decided not to prioritize a quick reporting of election results. Absentee ballots can arrive up to a week after Election Day so long as they are postmarked by Election Day, and voters can later fix errors in their ballots, as Jerry Goldfeder, an elections lawyer, told my colleague Dana Rubinstein. State officials don't start counting absentee ballots until at least a week after Election Day.

That's why officials took weeks to release results in some congressional races last year.

The mayor's race was another example of New York's slowness. On primary night, the city announced only the first choices of in-person voters. A week later (this past Tuesday) came the full ranked-choice results from those voters. Not until sometime in July will the city release the absentee results.

It's true that there are some unavoidable tensions between efficiency and voting access. But New York's slowness also stems from a lack of competence. States with higher voter turnout report results much faster than New York does.

What about the 'discrepancy'?

The Election Board committed a stunning error in its announcement of results on Tuesday. In its count, it included 135,000 votes that did not actually exist — made-up votes that the board had created to test its ranked-choice software. It described the mistake as a "discrepancy" in a tweet on Tuesday.

Yesterday, the board released a new count, with the made-up votes removed. But the damage to the election's credibility is significant. "This is the most botched election results reporting by an official agency I've ever seen in the U.S.," Dave Wasserman of the Cook Political Report wrote.

What are the latest results?

The new results are similar to the earlier ones, with Eric Adams having a small lead over Kathryn Garcia — of 15,000 votes, or 2.2 percentage points — in the final round. But the unreleased absentee ballots seem likely to favor Garcia, given the neighborhoods they come from, Wasserman and other election analysts noted. (It is still possible that Maya Wiley could vault over Garcia into the final two, with either Wiley or Adams then winning.)

The key reason the race has narrowed, compared with Adams's sizable lead after the first round, is that far more of Wiley's supporters preferred Garcia than him.

Adams ran the most conservative campaign of the three candidates and did best among working-class voters across racial groups. Wiley, the most liberal of the three, fared better among college graduates, especially those who were Black or Hispanic. Garcia was strongest among white college graduates, The Times's Thomas Edsall noted.

I see two main takeaways: One is that working-class voters across races — even in a Democratic primary in New York City — are fairly moderate, as I described in Tuesday's newsletter. Two is that New York suffers from some of the worst-run elections in the United States.

Related:

I want to thank you for spending time with The Morning today. Subscribers to The New York Times make this newsletter possible, and I hope you'll consider becoming one of them. You can do so here.

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"If you are not in the top 100, you are basically not making any money," Vasek Pospisil, a player who has been ranked as high as 25th in the world, said. Contrast that with the N.H.L., Pospisil noted, which has roughly 700 players and a guaranteed minimum salary of $700,000.

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Thanks for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you tomorrow. — David

P.S. The word "dudealicious" appeared for the first time in The Times yesterday.

"The Daily" is about a new era in college sports. On the Modern Love Podcast, the collision of two marriages.

Claire Moses, Tom Wright-Piersanti and Sanam Yar contributed to The Morning. You can reach the team at themorning@nytimes.com.

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