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Board of Elections Practices Damage Control For Their Incorrect Ballots

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The Board of Elections said at an emergency meeting Friday that it will take action to avoid voter confusion about new ballots with misleading instructions.

Instructions on the paper ballots for the election on November 2 say that voters should cast a vote by filling in the oval above or next to the name of the candidate.

However, the ovals are actually below the candidates' names.

"We are doing everything in accordance with the law. This is just the ballot the way it is and if you ask me if there is confusion? I don't see any confusion," said BOE Executive Director George Gonzalez.

Gonzalez said he does not anticipate a problem, but said there will be flyers inside booths clarifying how to vote and staff on hand to answer questions.

"This is the same ballot that was used in the September 2010 primary election. Over 400,000 cast their vote using this ballot. That specific issue was not brought to our attention," said Gonzalez. "But again, to make sure that everything goes smoothly and minimal confusion for November 2, we're taking every effort and step to take corrective action to minimize any possible problem the voter may have."

BOE officials said it is too late to reprint the ballots for November 2, but they will correct the issue in future elections.

The ballot trouble is the latest mess to hit the Elections Board. Mayor Michael Bloomberg called the BOE's performance on Primary Day a "royal screw-up." Also, this week State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli released a scathing report this week detailing the mistakes.

"Those problems in the primary election, they shouldn't happen again," said Gonzalez.

Other concerns are lingering. The words on the ballot are quite small, making it difficult to read ballot measures proposed by the city's Charter Revision Commission.

"If you have a little extra thickness in your reading glasses it will help you," said Charter Revision Commission Chairman Matthew Goldstein.

Adding to the confusion is the fact that the charter questions are listed on the back of the ballot, not the front. That has led to New Yorkers for Term Limits' "Turn It Over" ad campaign, which is on buses and in subway stations.

Goldstein is taking some heat himself over the ballot questions, specifically the one on term limits. It asks voters if they want to return to a two-term limit for city officials, but sitting lawmakers will be exempt from any change.

"When people learn about this exception being made for 33 elected officials, they're outraged," said Morgan Pehme of New York Civic.

However, voters are not likely to vote down the measure.

Rather, a new ad from the Charter Revision Commission which will air next week in the city is going to ask voters to "Flip over the ballot. Flip off the politicians. Yes on 1."

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