Two Serious Errors

These particular two have occurred in the just concluded (sort of) Progressive-Democratic Party primary election for Party’s nominee for Mayor of New York City.

The first error is this: more than 920,000 votes were counted in that primary election, out of some 800,000 votes cast in person—and the count does not yet include 124,000+ absentee ballots cast.

But votes counted included 135,000 test votes—votes used to check procedures in and to practice for the ranked choice vote counting that would be used in the “live” election. Those test votes were supposed to have been purged before the actual live election and not counted in the results.

How does that happen, exactly? Most likely, it’s from the sloppiness and outright incompetence of the city’s Board of elections persons.

The second error is more of a failure and is even more serious, and it goes to the heart of ranked choice voting.

[V]oters…list their top five candidates in order. Since no candidate was the first choice of more than 50% of voters, a computer on Tuesday tabulated ballots in a series of rounds that worked like instant run-offs.
In each round, the candidate in last place was eliminated. Votes cast for that person were then redistributed to the surviving candidates, based on whoever voters put next on their ranking list. That process repeated until only two candidates were left.

A computerized process that uses cast and in-hand ballots to resolve the question from the bottom up. Computerized should take a few hours (I’m being pessimistic here; we’re long past the days of card-punch UNIVACs—and if you don’t recognize what those are, that’s my point) to complete.


The final result is not expected until mid-July.

Wait—the Progressive-Democrats’ primary election was held ‘way back on 22 June. It’ll take weeks, not hours, for the computers to run this process to completion?

How does that work, exactly?

I see two factors in play here that could slow the computerized process. One is that all the absentee ballots have yet(!) to be included. Why weren’t they included in the count from the start? Because they weren’t available at the start. A State law enacted just last year allows absentee ballots arriving as late as a week after primary day to be counted, so long as they’re postmarked by primary day.

Another is that the test ballots weren’t marked in any serious way, so they have to be hand-identified and hand-removed from the pile of ballots cast.


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