2020 elections

Why Are We Still Waiting for New York Primary Results?

A New York primary voter on June 23. Nearly a month later, final results are still being tabulated. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

More than three weeks have passed since voters in New York State cast their ballots in the June 23 primaries. For some races, the final results are still not in.

On Election Night, Mondaire Jones, a 33-year-old lawyer who worked in the Obama administration, looked to be the winner of the eight-person Democratic primary to replace retiring Representative Nita Lowey. Noted election guru Dave Wasserman had “seen enough” to declare Jones the winner early on June 24. But it wasn’t until this Tuesday, three weeks after Election Day, that the official call was made.

As absentee ballots are counted and legal challenges are prepared, many other candidates are still waiting for the final ruling on their race. Here’s what we know about why the New York State primary-election results are still not final.

There were just so many ballots

The main culprit in this massive delay is the unprecedented number of absentee ballots cast in the election. Democratic primary voters in New York City alone returned more than 384,000 ballots, according to the Board of Elections.

According to the New York Times elections-results page, three congressional primaries and a handful of State Senate and General Assembly primaries are still up in the air. The final calls haven’t been made for Ritchie Torres and Jamaal Bowman, who challenged longtime Representative Eliot Engel, but both are expected to win. Meanwhile, the race for the Democratic nomination in the 12th Congressional District is much tighter, with incumbent Representative Carolyn Maloney and Suraj Patel separated by fewer than 700 votes.

Counting didn’t start for two weeks

Elections officials did not start counting absentee ballots until last week, two weeks after the election. That was partially out of necessity. Though ballots had to be postmarked June 23, they had until June 30 to arrive at their destination. On July 6, Staten Island became the first borough to begin counting its ballots. The other four boroughs followed two days later. So while Election Day was 23 days ago, absentee ballots in most of New York City first began to be opened only eight days ago. And election workers have a lot to sort through. In Manhattan alone, Democrats returned 121,248 absentee ballots, the most in the city.

The legal challenges are coming

Counting absentee ballots isn’t just a matter of opening envelopes and evaluating signatures; campaigns are also allowed to observe the process and “object to the validity of any given ballot,” according to The Wall Street Journal.

Volunteers and lawyers search for reasons that could cause a vote to be set aside — like an envelope that isn’t sealed — and in some instances, apply extra scrutiny to ballots they believe were cast for rivals.

Many candidates have also preemptively filed suit that establishes their right to challenge their opponents’ votes.

When will it end?

It’s hard to say definitively. Last week, the Intercept reported that the Bowman and Engel campaigns were told that absentee ballots would be completely counted by early August.

What does this mean for November?

Say good-bye to Election Night and hello to Election Week, or even Election Month. If the election is close and absentee voting has been expanded due to the pandemic, neither presidential candidate may have 270 electoral votes as November 3 turns into November 4. And with Donald Trump in the White House, that could lead to chaos.

Why Are We Still Waiting for Results in New York’s Primary?