Absurd New York #142: “Wreckin’ the Big Apple Award” Winner Revealed!


Absurd New York #142: Wreckin' the Big Apple Prize. Daily News Cover. June 30, 2021.



The Road to the Prize!

During the 2016 Democratic Presidential Primary, we were pretty impressed when the Board of Elections purged 125,000 Brooklynites from its voter rolls without telling anyone. 

Then, during the 2018 Midterm Elections, we got goosebumps when its scanning machines broke down all over the City. In the aftermath, Michael J. Ryan, the Board’s Executive Director, held a masterclass in accountability when he explained the day’s rainy weather had “moistened” the ballots. “The drier and crisper the ballot is,” he told Spectrum News-NY1, “the less issues you’re going to have with the machine.” No kidding! And, for good measure, he described the ensuing long lines as “a sign of a healthy and robust democracy.”

But past achievements were no reason to rest on its laurels. On the heels of the 2020 Presidential Election, the Board sent out 100,000 absentee ballots with mismatched names and addresses. (We wished we’d gotten one!) And even more endearing were the forms people received that read “Official Absentee Military Ballot,” despite never having served in the armed forces. So what was wrong with that, you ask? Well, nothing, concerned citizen. The Board took to Twitter, reassuring, “This is the correct ballot, even if you are not a military voter.” Outstanding!

But last week’s Democratic Mayoral Primary finally won us over. When the polls closed on June 22nd, the preliminary result of the City’s new ranked-choice system showed that 799,827 ballots were cast. Eric Adams (with 253,234 first-place votes) was in the lead, followed by Maya Wiley (177,722) and Kathryn Garcia (155,812). So far, not very interesting. Then, on June 29th, the Board updated its tally. 

After running 11 rounds of ranked-choice voting match ups, it put Adams (368,898) in first over Garcia (352,990). Wiley and the others were eliminated. Meanwhile, 219,944 ballots were “deactivated” after the candidates ranked on each were knocked out. All in all, 941,832 ballots were counted.

Wait, what? Where did the extra 142,005 ballots come from? The absentee ones hadn’t been added in yet, so why the big boost?

On Twitter, the Board announced it was trying to “identify where the discrepancy occurred,” so the public, elected officials, and even mayoral candidates would need just a little “patience.” (Kudos for the Guns N’ Roses reference!)

But the words didn’t come from Mr. Ryan, who’d been on medical leave since March. Nor did they come from Pamela Perkins, the Board’s Administrative Manager and second-in-command, who retired on June 1st (four weeks ago!). According to the New York Times, her replacement just started on June 28 (!). So effectively, without Mr. Ryan or Ms. Perkins, the Board’s been operating leaderless down the home stretch of a mayoral primary. No big whoop. 



New York Post Cover. June 30, 2021.



Our Prize Winner!

That’s why, in light of its years of assiduously declining work, we’re duty bound to bestow our inaugural Wreckin’ the Big Apple Award™️ upon the New York City Board of Elections! Congratulations one and all! But, more importantly, congratulations to everyone who let the agency disintegrate. You did it!

Oh, and that “discrepancy” the Board was investigating? Well, as revealed by the Post, it was 135,000 pre-election “test ballots” the Board neglected to purge from its election management system. Maybe it should just leave them there. After all, we’re pulling for the Board to win another Wreckin’ Award™️ again soon.



New York Times Cover. June 30, 2021.



Screenshots of the Daily News, New York Post, and New York Times. June 30, 2021.

Each outlet not only reported on the Board of Elections’s most recent feat — sowing Bungle! Mayhem! and Confusion! into the mayor’s race — but also, as you see, splashed the story across their respective front pages. 




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