NEW YORK—A voter experience survey following last week's general elections conducted by volunteers from City Council and good government organizations such as New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), Citizens Union, The League of Women Voters, and the Center for the Independence of the Disabled, was released on Tuesday, and highlights several areas the new voting process can be improved.
One thousand, two hundred voters across 300 polling sites in the five boroughs were surveyed on their voting experiences in hopes of providing insight into how voters responded to the new scanning systems.
Councilwoman and government operations chairwoman Gale Brewer along with Council Speaker Christine Quinn released the results of the survey, which found New Yorkers primarily had problems with the layout and the font size on the ballot.
“Our survey questions covered the spectrum of voter difficulties, exactly the difficulties we heard during the primary elections." said Quinn. "The questions raised ranged from voting equipment malfunctions, late poll site openings, to questions of inadequately trained poll workers, and the lack of privacy when casting ballots."
Approximately 28 percent of those surveyed sited the process had improved since the primary election, however many still found problems.
“The ballot text was very small,” commented a Woodhaven resident on the survey who was among the many who complained about font size. “I had difficulty squinting just to make out the names, it almost made me get a headache. I nearly gave up voting right away.”
When asked if the ballot was difficult to read or confusing, 1 in 3 survey respondents said yes.
“We may have the best voting system in the country, but if voters can’t read the ballot, we have an enormous problem,” said Quinn.
Insufficient privacy was another issue sited in the survey. When asked if poll workers offered a privacy sleeve or envelop to keep ballots private, 22 percent of those surveyed answered no.
“For far too long New Yorkers have had to experience long lines, broken voting machines, [and] poorly trained poll workers,” said Gene Russianoff, senior attorney for the NYPIRG. “Those problems have morphed with the new scan machines to concerns about privacy and how readable the ballot is.”
Quinn sites that one of the reasons the print was so small was because the current state law requires that all candidates appear on the front of the ballot. She notes that in the coming months she plans to meet with elected officials on the state level, good government groups, and the board of elections to brainstorm different strategies to address the ballot layout.
The cost of conducting the survey was only $40, which Quinn says it evidence that the board of elections has “no valid reason why they don’t voluntarily submit this data on an annual basis so that the critical evaluation that we are now conducting can happen every year to make sure New Yorkers really get the best voting experience possible,” said Quinn.
She notes that the goal of the survey was to firstly evaluate what happened on Election Day in lieu of information from the board of elections and secondly to encourage the board to provide such findings in the future.
Despite the problems with the ballots, Brewer gave the board of elections kudos on improving from the primary election and says she hopes to work together with them to improve the process for voters.