The election is the first in the city to use ranked-choice voting, the new system adopted through a ballot referendum that allows voters to rank their preferred candidates. If one candidate doesn’t receive over 50 percent of the vote, then the candidate listed as second choice on the ballot of the person receiving the least amount of votes is awarded those votes.
Currently, Selvena Brooks-Powers leads the race of nine candidates with 38 percent of the vote. Following in close second is Pesach Osina, who received just over 35 percent of the vote.
But if we look at the actual numbers, just 6,833 people voted in the special election. Brooks-Powers received 2,597 votes, while Osina tallied 2,406 votes, a difference of just 191 votes.
Sitting in last place is Nicole Lee, who received just 62 votes. That means her votes will go to the person listed as the second choice on her ballots. Even if Brooks-Power or Osina was listed as second choice on all of those ballots, there is no way either one of them is getting to 50 percent of the vote.
Just ahead of Lee is Latanya Collins, who managed to get 95 votes. Whoever is listed as second choice on those ballots (or third if the second choice happens to be Lee, who is now technically out of the race) will get those votes.
Again, even if one of the two frontrunners receives all of those votes, neither is going to reach the 50 percent threshold to be declared the winner.
It will take 3,417 votes to break the 50 percent mark. If Brooks-Powers was listed as the second choice on every ballot of the people who finished nine through five (a near statistical impossibility), she would be at 3,386 votes, still short of the 50 percent threshold.
In other words, it’s going to take a long time to sort this out.
The Board of Elections (BOE) has already stated the ballots will have to be counted by hand. Officials don’t even intend to start that process until March 10 to allow for absentee ballots to be received.
Keep in mind that this election is just to serve out the remainder of Richards’ term, which is over at the end of the year.
There will actually be a primary in June for this same seat, and the process for collecting signatures to get on the ballot in that race has already begun, and we won’t even know for at least a week who actually won the race.
We, for the most part, like the concept of ranked-choice voting, but this is a race where not even 7,000 people voted, and it is going to take BOE weeks to figure out a winner.
Now keep in mind that ranked-choice voting is going to be used for all of the June primaries.
If it is going to take this long to determine who won in a special election with low voter turnout, how long do you think it is going to take to determine who won the primary for mayor, let alone the 30-plus City Council and other citywide races that are taking place at the same time?
BOE has never been very adept at running elections under normal circumstances, we have a feeling they might really be in over their heads now.