Uncertainty hangs over Democratic primary results

A woman votes at a polling station in Chelsea on September 10, 2013 in New York City.  Credit: Andrew Burton/Getty Images
A woman votes at a polling station in Chelsea on Tuesday in New York City.
Credit: Andrew Burton/Getty Images

New York voters — and two candidates — must wait in limbo while the city’s Board of Elections determines whether a runoff is necessary to name the Democratic nominee for mayor.

With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio has 40.33 percent of the vote — just over the 40 percent cutoff to avoid a runoff election in October with former City Comptroller Bill Thompson, at 26.23 percent.

But those results don’t include more than 16,000 Democratic paper ballots the Board of Elections will begin counting Monday, in addition to an unknown number of affidavits, a spokeswoman said.

Thompson said he would go to court Wednesday to order supervision of the ballot-counting process.

“It’s an obligation to the voters, to the process, to make sure every vote is counted, every vote is heard in this and that someone does get to 40 percent,” Thompson said.

At an Election Night party in Brooklyn, de Blasio thanked supporters and declared a “victory,” but did not specifically discuss the potential of a runoff, referring only to “the next round of this campaign.”

Many voters were expecting a runoff Tuesday, but Dick Dadey, executive director of the Citizens Union, worried the long wait to count the paper ballots — 7 to 10 days by his estimation — would be detrimental.

“New York voters will be in a state of suspended animation as they wait for the results of this important election,” Dadey said.

The short time between when a runoff is determined necessary and the actual election, set for Oct. 1, also means fewer opportunities for campaigning, said Neal Rosenstein, government reform coordinator at the New York Public Interest Research Group.

“There’s a lot of twists to this and of course that’s going to dampen the outreach to voters,” Rosenstein said.

Voters extremely supportive of one particular candidate who didn’t make the runoff, such as those voters “in with Quinn,” will be less enthusiastic in a runoff scenario, Rosenstein added.

If the runoff is held, far fewer registered Democrats are expected to vote. Absentee voters, including members of the military, might not be able to send in their ballots on time as well, Dadey and Rosenstein said.

“It’s a failure of our democracy that we hold runoff elections that allow under 10 percent of registered voters determine who may be the next mayor,” Dadey said.

Thompson rebuked the suggestion that holding out before all votes are tallied would harm the Democratic Party, a sentiment Dadey expected.

“A candidate who’s spent the last four years running for mayor is not going to back down when it is so close,” he said.

A runoff — which is already necessary in the Democratic race for public advocate— will cost the city some $13 million, a Board of Elections spokeswoman said.

Follow Anna Sanders on Twitter: @AnnaESanders


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