Although it’s gotten better in recent decades, New York City politics is still quite machine-driven. The Brooklyn Democratic Party, the machine from which mayoral frontrunner and current Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams hails, is a particularly corrupt outgrowth of it.
The machine does not like ranked-choice voting, primarily because it decreases party leaders’ control over election outcomes1. Ahead of an election that may well be decided by ranked choice, the machine candidate and his surrogates are already trying to sow doubt about the potential result, absurdly comparing a completely normal last-minute alliance between Kathryn Garcia and Andrew Yang to “voter suppression.” Never mind the fact that this low-turnout, off-year election for the mayor of the nation’s largest city is being held in one of the worst states when it comes to voter access, thanks to longstanding laws supported by the very machine Adams represents.
In echoes of a certain recent election, Adams even had to be asked to clarify that he would accept the result, and that he did not think the election was likely to be stolen or rigged. Make of that what you will.
As a voter, ranked-choice was a fascinating experience. In theory, it allows ideology and pragmatism to coexist on the same ballot. And for me, in this election, it very much did, as I was able to effectively choose both a pragmatist, in Garcia, and a true progressive, in Wiley. The extreme pragmatist in me loved this added strategic layer of voting, as well as the strategy of campaign alliances like the Garcia/Yang pairing. The hardcore progressive in me felt guilty for ranking Garcia first, and for loving her last-minute strategic alliance with Yang, whom I intensely dislike.
Hopefully, future elections offer us better choices, and less drama, as politicians and voters alike get used to strategic decision-making and odd alliances of convenience. In the meantime, I’m not looking forward to what looks like an early Adams lead, followed by weeks of waiting to see if Wiley or Garcia can make their way back into the fold.
Though I don’t particularly fear Adams’ wannabe Trumpism, I am disappointed that we have to even consider it. One of the lovely features of machine politics is that appointed positions like election boards tend to become bastions of corruption and nepotism. In this case, the synergy between the NYC Election Board’s incompetence in quickly administering the election and the machine candidate’s desire to delegitimize ranked-choice may work to set off another round of lowercase-d democratic stress that none of us need right now. At least it’s almost over.