John L. Ray received the second highest number of votes ever cast for an at-large candidate for the D.C. City Council in winning reelection Tuesday to a full four-year term, unofficial final returns showed yesterday.

District voters have cast ballots every two years since 1974, when they first chose the four council members who serve at-large and the eight who represent individual wards. The city's Home Rule Charter creating the elected council took effect in January 1975.

On Tuesday, Ray, a Democrat, received 101,650 votes. Since home rule began, the only one who has topped that total has been Marion Barry, now the mayor, who was elected to a two-year council term in the initial 1974 election. In 1976, he received the record 113,461 votes in winning a four-year term. Ray was Barry's replacement on the council, first by appointment and later by election to a short term.

The second at-large council member reelected Tuesday, Republican nominee Jerry A. Moore Jr., received 48,981 votes. That was a drop from the 57,673 votes Moore got in the 1976 election. Under a Home Rule Charter provision, only two of the at-large seats may be held by the majority Democratic Party, assuring minority representation in the other two at-large seats.

A total of seven candidates sought two at-large seats on Tuesday.

The unofficial figures released by the Board of Elections and Ethics showed some erosion in vote-getting by Walter E. Fauntroy, who has served as the District's Democratic nonvoting delegate in Congress since that post was created in 1971. On Tuesday, he received 106,711 votes, 74.8 percent of those cast for the office. In the 1976 presidential election, Fauntroy got 123,464 votes, 77.3 percent of those cast. p

In 1978, a nonpresidential year with a smaller voter turnout, Fantroy got 76,557 votes, 79.5 percent of those cast.

A total of 168,651 District voters cast ballots Tuesday, 58.3 percent of the 288,837 who are registered. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates 475,000 residents are eligible to register.

In the presidential race, the Democratic ticket headed by President Carter, which lost nationwide, received 124,376 votes in the District to 21,765 for the winning Republican ticket headed by Ronald Reagan.

Other candidates, in the order listed by the board of elections, received the following votes: Clifton DeBerry, Socialist Workers Party, 157; Gus Hall, Communist Party, USA, 354; Deirdre Griswold, Workers World Party, 51; Ed Clark, Libertarian Party, 1,037; Barry Commoner, Citizens Party, 1,686; and John B. Anderson, independent, 14,971.

Mary s. Rodgers, city elections administrator, said absentee ballots will be counted Wednesday. About 4,000 were mailed, and there was no count yesterday of how many had been returned. There are no races in which the outcome hinges on the count of absentees.