By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
A number of Brooklyn council members said on Thursday that serious voting problems plagued a substantial number of the city’s polling places during the recent primary elections and warned that the same problems could crop up again during the November general elections.
Council members Jumaane D. Williams (D-Brooklyn), Vincent J. Gentile (D-Brooklyn) and Letitia James (D-Brooklyn) joined other elected officials and good government groups, including Common Cause/NY and Citizens Union to sound the alarm.
The lawmakers said that many voters were unaware that their polling site had changed – district lines were redrawn this year. Poll workers sent some voters to multiple incorrect locations, and many were not informed of their ability to ask for affidavit ballots.
Small font size on the ballots made voting almost impossible for those who forgot their reading glasses, especially in Manhattan and Brooklyn where the type size was only seven point. The next sentence is in seven point type: This is an example of seven point.
"While the Board of Elections (BOE) may not have intended to disenfranchise New Yorkers, their negligence in addressing key voting issues had that accidental and unfortunate effect," said Council Member Williams in a statement. "In my travels on Primary Day, I saw voters leaving poll sites screaming and cursing over the general chaos. Many were redirected and misdirected to the point that they lost the will to cast a ballot, and that cannot be our status quo. The BOE must address these issues, particularly for groups like seniors and immigrants that fall on the other half of the digital divide."
"Voting is a right that should not require a magnifying glass," said Council Member Gentile. "Perhaps I'm living in the Twilight Zone, but I think rule number one should be to print ballots that people can actually read."
"The primary election showed us that the Board of Elections needs to make some technological, language, and functional upgrades to make voting as simple as possible for New Yorkers," said Council Member James.
Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause/NY, said in a statement that the problems caused some voters to miss voting.
The council members made several suggestions to the Board of Elections, including increasing the font size on all ballots; sending out an additional mailing to voters making clear their poll site may have changed; checking poll sites on Election Day; and publicly releasing voter complaints. A hearing will be held on the subject next month.
Other representatives pushing for changes before the general election include Charles Barron (D-Brooklyn), Gale Brewer (D-Manhattan), Leroy Comrie (D-Jamaica), Brad Lander (D-Brooklyn), and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio.