You Have The Right To Vote -- but the Wrong Instructions

NYC Board of Elections Can't Fix Sentence On A Bungled Ballot

By Andrew Siff
|  Friday, Oct 22, 2010  |  Updated 9:45 PM EDT
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You Have The Right To Vote -- but the Wrong Instructions

NBCNewYork

Where does that oval look like it is to you?

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Talk about turning voters upside down.

New York's new ballot has a head-spinning set of instructions on the back, which, if followed to the letter, could lead to an incorrect vote.

Here's how it happened -- or, as the kids say, went down.

State lawmakers approved the language, and it got certified by the U.S. Justice Department. That language reads: "To vote for a candidate whose name is printed on this ballot fill in the oval above or next to the name of the candidate." Except of course, that's impossible. All of the ovals appear underneath the candidate names.

"Basically the instruction is wrong," said Lawrence Norden of the Brennan Center for Justice, a government watchdog. "More people than usual are going to be looking at the instructions, and at the very least they're going to be confused."

But George Gonzalez, Executive Director for the New York City Board of Elections, said critics should take a deep breath. "This was the same ballot 400,000 people cast without a problem," he said, speaking about primary night.

Yet, there were myriad other issues during the September 14 primary -- from less-than-informed poll workers to machine malfunctions. But improper voting due to faulty instructions was not one of them, said Gonzalez.

Just to be clear, the Board approved extra instruction sheets for every voting table. They're bold, referred to as the "marigold guides" by election workers. These new instructions take out the word "above" and only ask voters to mark the oval "next to" the candidate name. There again, however, remains a problem. The ovals are still down below. Not on the side.

"It is below, but it's subject to interpretation," said Gonzalez. "We really have to give the voter more credit than this. When the voter wants to vote for somebody, they know where to find you on the ballot."

The Board of Elections urged anyone with problems on November 2nd to call a special hotline: 1-866-VOTE-NYC

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