But that’s not what’s going to happen in New York. Instead, the results carry the expected pandemic-related asterisk: There are a lot of absentee ballots still to count. More importantly, the votes for the runoff have already been cast. New York switched to ranked-choice voting, meaning voters have already indicated who their second- (and third- and fourth- and fifth-) most desired candidates are. The city’s board of elections will systematically eliminate candidates with fewer votes and shift their supporters’ votes to their next-favored candidates. The process ends when only two candidates remain.
The question, then, is can Adams pass that mark? The answer based on the available data and history is: probably.
Either Adams or Wiley came in first in about 4,300 of the city’s 5,900 electoral districts, including ties. Two other candidates, Kathryn Garcia and Andrew Yang, won about 2,500 districts between them. The resulting map shows a lot of the political fissures in the city.
Garcia, for example, did well in Manhattan. Adams did well in the eastern parts of the city as well as the Bronx. Wiley did well in the Manhattan-adjacent parts of Brooklyn and Queens.
What this map doesn’t tell us, though, is where the votes of candidates who will soon be eliminated are likely to shift. We can’t say for certain how voters for, say, city comptroller Scott Stringer are going to go. But measuring the second-most popular candidate in each district does give some sense of how the process might shake out. After all, it’s reasonable to assume the candidate who fares second in an area will be more likely to be the second pick of more voters in that district.
So, here’s the most common second-place finisher in most districts. It’s often Wiley — far more often than it is Adams, for example.
Notice Manhattan in particular. Many of the electoral districts there had Garcia and Wiley as their one-two finishers. If Garcia is eliminated, that’s probably good news for Wiley.
The bad news for Wiley, though, is that she’s also often the second-place finisher in places where Adams won. We’d certainly expect this, given the top-line results in the city! But that means that, on many ballots, she probably won’t be able to move up simply because the person in front of her is Adams, the candidate she needs to beat.
There were more than 420,000 votes cast in electoral districts where Wiley came in second. About 265,000 of those votes were cast in districts where Adams came in first. Adams, who leads Wiley by about 75,000 votes, came in second in districts where about 142,000 votes were cast. About 58,000 of those votes were cast in places where Wiley came in first.
Looking at it another way: There were about 331,000 votes cast in districts where Wiley outperformed Adams. There were about 461,000 votes cast in districts where Adams outperformed Wiley.
We can approximate how the vote-ranking might unfold by looking at the district-level results. As of Wednesday morning, the vote totals look like this.
All of those votes for other candidates will get redistributed. If we just do so all at once, based on district results — which, I hasten to add, is not how it actually works — we see that Adams extends his lead over Wiley by about 10,000 votes, picking up more than a third of the total.
If we reallocate Garcia’s and Yang’s votes, too, using the same process, Adams passes the 50-percent mark.
Why? Because while Wiley outperformed Adams in districts where 64 percent of Garcia votes were cast, only about a third of Yang’s votes came from those same districts. About 60 percent of votes cast for all the other candidates were cast in districts where Adams outperformed Wiley.
Again, this is not how the process actually works. It’s very possible that individual voters’ rankings will frequently deviate from the order seen in the district totals. Both Adams and Wiley have to cover a lot of territory before hitting the 50-percent mark.
The available data point to Wiley being a more-commonly preferred second-place candidate. Unless those individual votes do deviate from district results, though, that may be just good enough for her to come in second place.