Queens special election votes will be counted by machine, by hand

NEW YORK – A hand count – this is how the winner of the special election serving as the city’s first ranked voting test can ultimately be determined.


What would you like to know

  • PoinCity and state electoral councils disagree over use of new software to count choice votes
  • The city will hand-count the votes in the February 2 election and compare them to the machine tally
  • Snafu presents a new challenge in the deployment of a new voting system

Red tape, apparent partisanship within the state’s electoral board, and a reported communications failure have left the city’s electoral council without the guidance it needs to use its new vote tabulation software.

Until it gets answers, the city resorts to this:

“And the official record will be the – if we have to go through the iterations – would be the number of hands,” said Frédéric Umane, president of the city’s election council. “But we’ll use the number of hands to compare it to the program … as a way to check the program to make sure it is working.”


The decision to potentially count ballots by hand and machine in the February 2 election was first reported by the WNYC.

Commissioners launched the call four days after the start of the early voting period for this race to fill a vacant seat on Queens City Council.

Eight candidates are in the running. They will be ranked by voters in order of preference as their race is the first in town to use the new voting system.

An example of what a ranked choice ballot will look like in New York City in 2021.

If no candidate obtains a majority of the votes, the lowest performing of them will be eliminated and their votes redistributed – the process continuing until someone passes 50%.

For now, in the special election, if no one gets a majority in the first round, subsequent rounds will be counted manually.

“The tabulation program is very fast,” said Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause New York. “They’re going to do this first, just logically. So what is going to happen is that they are going to compile the results and then they will confirm those results with a hand count. It will be very simple and straightforward.

This week, several city council candidates are organizing online forums, workshops and flyers to publicize how ranking voting works.

The Bronx is hoping Althea Stevens is a part of this so-called Week of Action, but implementation issues simultaneously concern her.

“Choice voting is here; he’s here to stay, ”said Stevens, a Bronx Council candidate. “But my rejection will always be: How will it help my people and my community and what does it look like to them?” “

State and city electoral council officials were in touch on Wednesday about a way forward with the city’s use of the new software.

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