Want the best of VICE News straight to your inbox? Sign up here.
Former President Donald Trump is using the New York City mayoral election to fuel conspiracy theories about his own election defeat, a predictable but worrying outcome of yet another meltdown at the New York City Board of Elections.
Last night, after releasing results showing updated ranked-choice voting counts with Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and former sanitation commissioner Kathryn Garcia neck and neck, the BOE abruptly pulled the results and attributed them to a “discrepancy.” Later, they explained that the city accidentally counted 135,000 test ballots in its initial release of results. Updated ranked-choice voting totals are expected to be released Wednesday.
Trump, who is still pushing the lie that the 2020 election was stolen from him, is continuing to press state legislators around the country to commission new audits like the shambolic one going on in Maricopa County, Arizona. And on Wednesday morning, he seized on the New York mayoral debacle for his own benefit.
“Just like in the 2020 Presidential Election, it was announced overnight in New York City that vast irregularities and mistakes were made and that Eric Adams, despite an almost insurmountable lead, may not win the race,” Trump said in a Wednesday statement. “The fact is, based on what has happened, nobody will ever know who really won.”
Trump is conveniently leaving out that the New York mayoral election results are not only unofficial at this point, they’re not even close to finishing the initial count, with more than 100,000 absentee ballots outstanding. And the states Trump lost that cost him the presidency—like Arizona, Michigan, and Georgia—ran audits after the election last year that confirmed there was no problem with the equipment and the votes were accurate.
But Trump, never one for nuance, nevertheless used the NYC race to inject more skepticism about his own defeat.
“The Presidential Race was a Scam and a Hoax with numbers and results being found that are massive, shocking, and determinative,” Trump said. “Watch the mess you are about to see in New York City, it will go on forever. They should close the books and do it all over again, the old-fashioned way, when we had results that were accurate and meaningful.”
This was the first year New York City had used a ranked-choice voting system (RCV) to select a mayor. In ranked-choice voting, if no candidate has surpassed 50 percent in the first round, the results will continue to be re-run in a series of rounds where the last-place candidate is eliminated and their votes are reallocated to whomever their voters chose next on the list, until just two candidates are remaining.
Though Adams had a comfortable lead based solely on first-round vote totals, he was nowhere near a clear majority, and the initial RCV tabulation showed a lead of just two percentage points (or fewer than 16,000 votes) over Garcia—before the absentee ballots began to be counted.
Adams supporters had fueled distrust of ranked-choice voting in recent weeks, especially after Garcia and former front-runner Andrew Yang appeared together at a rally and Yang endorsed his voters ranking Garcia #2 on their ranked-choice ballots. Former Gov. David Paterson, an Adams backer, said the alliance “speaks to the inherent issues with Tuesday’s election being ranked choice voting.”
Adams, who is Black, said the alliance was reminiscent of “America’s dark past, everything from poll taxes to how we stopped the voting we’ve seen across the country.”
Before the Board of Elections corrected their numbers, Adams had released a statement saying the RCV update had “rais[ed] serious questions.” After the BOE acknowledged the error, Adams called the mistake “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,” he said. “We appreciate the Board's transparency and acknowledgment of their error.”
The New York City BOE is notably incompetent and is essentially a product of the spoils system, as a New York Times report found last year. (New York state is the only one in the country that allows election workers to be mostly chosen by local party bosses, according to the Times.) The results for last year’s June primaries, for example, were still undecided well into August. Critics such as state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi pointed to yet another botched primary as evidence the system needs reform.
“We need top to bottom election and voting reform in New York State and I am going to work with election experts to make it a reality,” Biaggi tweeted Tuesday.