2010-11-17 / Features

Voters Found Faults With Ballot, Council Says


On Election Day, Speaker Quinn surveyed voters at her polling site, P.S. 33 in Chelsea, after she cast her vote. On Election Day, Speaker Quinn surveyed voters at her polling site, P.S. 33 in Chelsea, after she cast her vote. A City Council survey of people who voted in the recent elections reveals that they cited issues such as ballot design, the size of type used to print instructions and lack of privacy among the problems encountered on Election Day, Council Speaker Christine Quinn announced.

Nearly 1,200 New Yorkers from at least 300 different poll sites throughout the five boroughs completed the council’s online, anonymous voter experience survey. It was part of the council’s oversight of the city Board of Elections.

“The results of the council’s survey show that ballot design and font size is a real problem for many New Yorkers. We look forward to working with our local good government partners on the different ways we can improve the layout of the ballot, Quinn (D–Manhattan) said.

“Through conducting this survey, we also learned that most New York City voters you talk to are thrilled to provide feedback on what went right, what went wrong and how the board can improve the voter experience for the next election. Surveying voters on their experience at the polls is an extremely easy and essential evaluation tool that the Board of Elections should implement.”

According to Quinn, when voters were asked if the ballot was difficult to read or confusing, more than one third of the surveyed voters responded “yes”. A significant number of voters elaborated on the ballot design and font size.

“The print on the ballot was terrible. It was too small. It looked like the telephone book and having the magnifier there added insult to injury,” one voter from Jackson Heights stated.

Someone from Woodhaven said, “The ballot text was very small. I had difficulty squinting just to make out the names, it almost made me get a headache. I nearly gave up voting right away.”

Poll workers are supposed to suggest using a Ballot Marking Device (BMD) if a voter says he/she had difficulty reading or marking the ballot, but over a quarter of those surveyed said they were not made aware of the BMD.

As for privacy, surveyed voters said poll workers did not offer privacy sleeves or poll workers handled voters’ ballots without their consent.

More than 100 volunteers from the city council and good government groups informally surveyed voters on their voting experience as they exited the poll sites. The volunteers then entered results of these interviews into an online survey tool. In addition, callers to 311 who had problems at the polls were also directed to the city council survey.

Among the good government groups that participated were the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), Citizens Union, League of Women Voters, the Center for the Independence of the Disabled and Make the Road New York.

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