Board Of Elections Votes To Increase Font Size On November Ballots Following Insistence From Local Pols

Council Members Jumaane Williams, Vincent Gentile Jumaane Williams and Letitia James. Source: The offices of Vincent Gentile

The latest initiative from Council Members Jumaane Williams, Letitia James and Vincent Gentile is a victory for those with bad eyesight.

Councilman Gentile called on the Board of Elections to correct a problem he perceived with the font size on ballots.

“The font is too damn small,” he wrote in a press release.

In previous years, the names of candidates had been printed in a 7-point font.

“Voting is a right that should not require a magnifying glass, ” Council Member Gentile said last week. “Perhaps I’m living in the Twilight Zone, but I think rule #1 should be to print ballots that people can actually read. ”

Gentile advocated for a 12-point font, but was still pleased with the Board of Elections increasing the size to a 9-point for the general election in November.

“I applaud the Board of Elections for listening to the people and doing the right thing,” Gentile said. “While I still think the font needs to be larger – I would like to see a normal 12-point font on the ballots – this is a step in the right direction and a major victory to know the Board of Elections is listening and responding.”

In addition to font size, the trio of Council Members proposed several other reforms as well. This includes:

•             Utilizing standout print and/or ink color in all BOE informational communications.
•             Sending an additional mailing to voters making clear their poll site may have changed.
•             Increasing the font size on all ballots.
•             Training poll workers on all resources, including new online tools.
•             Having the BOE be more proactive in checking poll sites during Election Day.
•             Quickly and publicly releasing detailed compilations of voter complaints.
•             Expanding a voter education campaign to subways and bus shelters.
•             Increasing BOE collaboration with elected officials, senior centers, civic associations and related stakeholders.

The request for clarity on ballots comes from the low turnout and confusion on the September 13 primary.

“The primary election on September 13 was beset by numerous problems, despite the low turnout,” said Council Member Gale Brewer, chair of the Committee on Governmental Operations. “In preparation for a hearing on October 15, I conducted an informal survey of voters’ experiences at the polls. The most common problems reported to my office were confusion about poll site and election district (ED) changes due to redistricting, misinformation from poll workers including directing voters to the wrong poll site or ED table, issues with the size of the font on the ballot, and problems with the ballot scanner including a lack of privacy when poll workers had to assist voters. However, it should be noted that the Board made several positive steps to increase voter awareness, including the launch of a newly designed website and a smartphone app, both complete with a poll site locator and sample ballot tool. I urge the Board to focus on correcting these problems before November, and I ask all stakeholders to take advantage of the voter outreach tools that the Board has made available.”

A hearing with the Committee on Governmental Operations will be held on Monday, October 15 to discuss the above cited ways for improving the electoral process.