7 min read

Wake Up To Politics - June 30, 2021

Good morning! It’s Wednesday, June 30, 2021. Election Day 2022 is 496 days away. Election Day 2024 is 1,224 days away.

What’s going on in New York City?

You were warned in this newsletter last week that the New York City mayoral primary, the city’s first major experiment with ranked-choice voting, might be a drawn-out and confusing process. But it wasn’t supposed to be this confusing.

Just to review, ranked-choice voting sets up an “instant runoff” among the candidates. Voters rank their top five choices on their ballots; if no candidate receives 50% from first-choice votes alone, the lowest-performing candidate is eliminated and their voters’ ballots are redistributed to whomever they ranked second. This process repeats itself until someone cobbles together a majority of votes.

Going into the primary, the New York City Board of Elections was planning to report results in multiple phases. Last Tuesday, on Election Night, the board released preliminary results that showed voters’ first-choice ballots — without including about 125,000 absentee ballots and without showing how any of the ranked-choice votes would be distributed beyond the first round.

In those results, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams was in the lead with 31.7% of first-choice ballots, followed by former civil rights attorney Maya Wiley at 22.3% and former city Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia at 19.5%.

Eric Adams, the current vote leader in the New York City Democratic mayoral primary. (James Estrin/New York Times)

The election board’s plan was to release the ranked-choice results for these votes yesterday (still not including absentee ballots), and then release updated ranked-choice results every week until all of the ballots were counted and the election was certified sometime in July.

That’s where things went sideways.

When the board released the ranked-choice results for the in-person votes on Tuesday, they showed Garcia vaulting into second place ahead of Wiley, within striking distance of Adams. It seemed as though, once the absentee ballots were counted, Garcia would have a shot at eclipsing Adams and becoming the city’s first female mayor.

The only problem? Those results were faulty. Within hours of releasing them to the public, the Board of Elections put out a statement admitting that they had included about 135,000 test votes in their count that had been intended to be used only for a test run of their tabulation software.

“The Board apologizes for the error and has taken immediate measures to ensure the most accurate up to date results are reported,” the statement said.

As of this writing, the corrected results have yet to be released, throwing the race to lead America’s largest city into absolute uncertainty. It is unknown if Garcia’s newfound shot at victory was genuine, or even if the totals released on Election Night were accurate.

A New York City voter casts her ballot last week. (Richard Drew/AP)

“Imagine if NY was a presidential swing state,” National Journal columnist Josh Kraushaar wrote on Twitter. “[This] would be a national crisis.”

It’s important to note that this is not a problem with ranked-choice voting, but with the New York City Board of Elections. The agency has a long history of nepotism and ineptitude, having bungled the administration of several previous elections.

“As the workings of American democracy have become more complex — with sophisticated technology, early voting and the threat of foreign interference — New York has clung to a century-old system of local election administration that is one of the last vestiges of pure patronage in government, a relic from the era of powerful political clubhouses and Tammany Hall,” the New York Times reported last year.

The chaos in New York City is a poignant reminder of how underfunded and undersupervised the patchwork of American election agencies are.

Mistakes like the one made on Tuesday only chip away at deteriorating trust in the U.S. election process — see this statement from former President Donald Trump, attempting to use the NYC mishap as an opportunity to amplify his baseless claims that his 2020 loss was fraudulent.

A final thought bubble: “I was born in the Congo and my people are from Haiti,” Patrick Gaspard, who served as U.S. ambassador to South Africa under the Obama administration, tweeted on Tuesday. “I know what is said in the US about elections in other countries. We need to stop throwing shade on others. Our voting systems at home are a disaster, managed through patronage with capacity from the 1950’s.”

The Rundown

What else you need to know to start your day.

Congress: “The House is voting Wednesday to create a select committee that will investigate the deadly January 6 attack on the US Capitol, while House Republican leaders still aren't saying whether they will participate in the panel.” CNN

  • The select committee is slated to be made up of eight members, including a chair with subpoena powers, appointed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and five members appointed by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), if he chooses to participate. Pelosi’s office has indicated that she is considering including a House Republican as one of her appointees.

SCOTUS: “The Supreme Court on Tuesday denied a request by a group of Alabama real estate agents to block a federal moratorium on evictions that was imposed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Justice Brett Kavanaugh provided the key vote to leave the moratorium in place, joining Chief Justice John Roberts and the court’s three liberal justices.” SCOTUSBlog

AFGHANISTAN:  “The commander of the U.S.-led mission in Afghanistan warned on Tuesday that the country could be on a path to chaotic civil war as American and other international troops prepare to leave in the coming weeks.” New York Times

U.S. soldiers return from deployment in Afghanistan. (John Moore/Getty Images)


In Tuesday’s newsletter, I misstated the city in Florida where a condo building collapsed and killed at least 12 people. The city is Surfside, just north of Miami Beach.

My apologies for the error and thanks to the readers who pointed it out.

🔓 Gabe’s Picks

What I’m reading and watching this morning.

Two profiles worthy of your time: “John Roberts: The man in the middle” Deseret News

The best news of the day: “Pfizer and Moderna vaccines likely to produce lasting immunity, study finds” New York Times

A fun read: “McConnell reveals his ‘desert island’ Democratic presidential pick” NBC News

Number of the day: $2.6 million. That’s how much congressional campaigns and political parties are estimated by Mother Jones to have spent on security in the first three months of 2021, more than double the amount from 2019 as threats against politicians have skyrocketed.

Photo of the day: President Joe Biden bites into his ice cream order — one scoop of cookies and cream and one scoop of strawberry — during a stop in Wisconsin on Tuesday.

Meghan Hayes/Twitter

Video of the day: Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), 87, and Tom Cotton (R-AR), 44, complete the “22 Pushup Challenge,” which promotes awareness for veteran suicide prevention, at an event on Tuesday in Iowa. Click below to watch:

Jeff Kaufmann/Twitter


What’s happening in Washington today. (All times Eastern.)
Executive Branch
→ President Joe Biden will receive his daily intelligence briefing at 9:50 a.m. Later, he will convene a group of Cabinet officials, governors, and leaders from the private sector at 11 a.m. to “discuss the devastating intersection of drought, heat, and wildfires in the Western United States, and strengthening prevention, preparedness, and response efforts for this wildfire season,” according to the White House.

Biden will deliver remarks at the event, which will be attended by Govs. Kate Brown (D-OR), Spencer Cox (R-UT), Mark Gordon (R-WY), Jay Inslee (D-WA), Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM), Gavin Newsom (D-CA), Jared Polis (D-CA), and Steve Sisolak (D-NV).

→ Vice President Kamala Harris will deliver remarks at the U.S. Delegation to Generation Equality Forum at 9:35 a.m. She will also attend the 11 a.m. meeting with Cabinet officials and Western governors.

→ First Lady Jill Biden and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff will travel to Phoenix, Arizona. At 2:30 p.m., they will join Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego (D) for a tour of a vaccination site at Isaac Middle School.

→ White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki will hold her daily press briefing at 1 p.m. She will be joined by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael Regan.

Legislative Branch
The Senate is not in session.

The House will convene at 12 p.m. The chamber is scheduled to hold an hour of debate and then a final vote on H.Res. 503, which would establish the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol. The House will also hold 90 minutes of debate on H.R. 3684, the Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation (INVEST) in America Act, a $547 billion surface transportation reauthorization bill.

The five-year bill includes $343 billion in funding for roads and bridges, $109 billion for public transit, and $95 billion for passenger and freight rail.  
Judicial Branch
The Supreme Court is not scheduled to release any orders or opinions.
Campaign 2024
→ Former President Donald Trump will visit the U.S.-Mexico border with Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX) and about a dozen House Republicans.

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