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Selvena Brooks-Powers Has Lead in 31st District Special Election Race, Ranked-Choice Voting Count To Determine Official Winner

(Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)

Feb. 24, 2021 By Allie Griffin

There was no clear winner in Tuesday’s special election for the 31st District Council seat after votes were tallied last night.

None of the nine candidates running for the southeast Queens seat secured a majority — more than 50 percent — of votes, thus prompting the city’s first test of the new ranked-choice voting system.

The candidate with the most votes at this point is Selvena Brooks-Powers, who generated about 38 percent of the vote, or 2,613 votes. Close behind is Pesach Osina, who received about 35 percent of the count, or 2,406 votes, according to the unofficial election night results.

Manny Silva came in third with about 10 percent or 694 votes. The remaining candidates earned single-digit percentages.

Selvena Brooks-Powers

Under ranked-choice voting, voters can rank candidates one through five in order of preference. The votes already tallied are first-choice votes. If a candidate wins a majority of first-choice votes, he or she wins the election.

If no one wins a majority — as in Tuesday’s election — then the candidate with the least votes is knocked out.

People who selected the last-placed candidate as their top choice will then have their votes tallied for whomever they picked as their second choice.

The process continues until one candidate receives the majority of votes. Candidate Nicole Lee will be the first to be knocked out in the process since she finished last.

Lee earned just under one percent of first-choice votes. Voters who ranked her as their first choice will have their second choices tallied and the process will continue.

The official winner of the nonpartisan special election, however, will not be announced for a couple weeks.

Board of Election officials said they would not begin the process of the ranked-choice voting count until March 10. The extra time is reserved for absentee and military ballots to be delivered to the Board.

Despite the delay, Brooks-Powers issued a statement Tuesday night where she declared herself the likely winner.

“We’re confident that once every vote has been counted, I will be the next Councilwoman…,” she said. “While there was substantial confusion about Ranked Choice Voting, these early results are promising and I look forward to all of the votes being counted.”

Pesach Osina

Brooks-Powers — who has served numerous roles in government and labor — collected several key endorsements in the lead-up to Tuesday, including the Queens County Democratic Party, the 1199 SEIU and 32BJ unions, Sen. James Sanders and Queens Borough President Donovan Richards.

Richards vacated the D-31 seat to become borough president.

However, Osina — who, eight years ago, ran and lost to Richards by a mere 79 votes  — has secured the backing of the district’s Orthodox Jewish community.

The winner of the special election will serve as the council member for the remainder of Richards’ term through December 2021.

A June primary and November general election will determine who will secure a full two-year term starting in 2022.

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