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NYC Runoff Election: How It Works

The results of the New York City mayoral primary election are in.

On the Republican side, former MTA chief Joseph Lhota beat out billionaire John Catsimatidis, winning 53% of the vote with 98% of the precincts reporting as of Tuesday night. Catsimatidis won only 41%.

On the Democratic side, the results are a bit trickier. As of Tuesday night with 98% of the precincts reporting, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio won 40.18% of the vote (according to the latest tally), whereas former Comptroller Bill Thompson won only 26%.

But in New York City, mayoral candidates must cross 40% of the vote in the primaries in order to avoid a run-off vote set for October 1. There are still thousands of ballots to be tallied so the exact results could take the Board of Elections a week, if not more time, to sort out. Still, de Blasio's victory party last night in Brooklyn made it clear that he feels that the Democratic nomination is set. Thompson wasn't so ready to concede.

"Every voice in New York City deserves to be heard," said the former comptroller last night to his supporters at the Eventi Hotel in Chelsea. "We're going to wait for every vote to be counted. This is far from over!"

So what does a run-off election actually mean? If no mayoral candidate wins at least 40% of the vote (the majority vote) then the top two candidates in the first round move on to a second round and the rest are eliminated. In this second round, either candidate must get more than 50% of the vote to be the clear winner.

As of right now, de Blasio has about 1,200 votes above the 40% needed to avoid a runoff, but paper and absentee ballots still need to be counted. The Board of Elections is planning to open the voting machines on Friday and re-count the tally. The paper ballots won't be open until Monday.

Bill de Blasio's popularity surged in the last two weeks leading up to the primaries, in part due to family appearances, heavy TV and online advertising, and celebrity endorsements. Exit polls showed de Blasio winning support across different groups, including women, minority, and LGBT voters with his message of "two cities" — even with Christine Quinn, who was poised to be the next openly-gay female mayor. If there is an October 1 runoff election, Bill Thompson will have quite a fight ahead of him, though Democratic leaders may pressure him to drop out of the race earlier to promote unity within the party.

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