Requires the use of a simple and easy to read typeface on paper ballots.
BILL NUMBER:S609A REVISED 06/20/11
TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the election law, in relation to the typeface to be used on paper ballots
PURPOSE: To make paper ballots more usable by the voting public through requirements that ballots use a simple and easy to read type, and be designed with a view towards usability, and by requiring that the State and New York City boards of elections, as well as those in the largest counties, have a MI time employee on staff who is trained in ballot design and usability.
SUMMARY OF PROVISIONS: Section 1 of the bill amends election law section 7-106(2) to require that paper ballots use simple and easy to read type style, and that candidates names be printed in initial capital and lower case letters of at least 12 point bold type. It further amends election law section 7-106(2) to add a new subdivision 2a, which requires that the New York State and New York City boards of elections, as well as those in Erie, Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester counties have one full time employee on staff who is fully trained in effective ballot design and ballot usability. It also requires that such employee of the state board of elections be available to advise the other counties on the proposed design and usability of their ballots for primary, general and special elections.
Section 2 of the bill establishes the effective date.
JUSTIFICATION: Currently, election law section 7-106(2) does not contain any requirements as to ballot readability or usability, and requires that candidates' names appear in all capital bold type letters with no minimum type size, all of which have made many ballots used in New York City and elsewhere difficult for voters to read and use. With the introduction of paper ballots statewide in 2010, this problem was particularly acute. In fact, difficulty reading the ballot, especially because of small type size, was the single most common complaint following the 2010 general election.
The U.S. Election Assistance Commission's report on Effective Designs of Federal Elections, June 2007, Section 3: Optical Scan Ballots, in its best practices recommendations, includes the specific changes in the ballot requirements in this amendment to election law section 7-106(2). This report is referred to favorably by the Brennan Center's 2008 report, entitled Better Ballots, which also includes the changes made by this bill in its "Ballot Design Checklist".
These and other studies all stress the importance of ballot design and usability, yet, despite their importance to the voters' ability to successfully select their candidates and cast their ballots, expertise in ballot design and usability is lacking within our boards of elections. No additional hiring should be necessary to meet the requirements for one full-time employee in the State board of elections, and one in the boards of elections of each of Our largest counties, to develop the necessary expertise in ballot design and usability. In fact, such expertise can largely be developed through self study of the extensive amount of literature in this field, along with some training courses.
LEGISLATIVE HISTORY: New bill.
FISCAL IMPACT ON THE STATE: None.
EFFECTIVE DATE: This act shall take effect on January 1, 2012.
STATE OF NEW YORK ________________________________________________________________________ 609--A 2011-2012 Regular Sessions IN SENATE (PREFILED) January 5, 2011 ___________Introduced by Sens. ADDABBO, AVELLA, ESPAILLAT, HASSELL-THOMPSON, KRUEG- ER, MONTGOMERY, PERKINS, SAMPSON, STAVISKY, STEWART-COUSINS -- read twice and ordered printed, and when printed to be committed to the Committee on Elections -- committee discharged, bill amended, ordered reprinted as amended and recommitted to said committee AN ACT to amend the election law, in relation to the typeface to be used on paper ballots THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, REPRESENTED IN SENATE AND ASSEM- BLY, DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS: Section 1. Subdivision 2 of section 7-106 of the election law is amended and a new subdivision 2-a is added to read as follows: 2. All paper ballots of the same kind for the same polling place shall be identical. A different, but in each case uniform style and size of SIMPLE AND EASY TO READ type, SUCH AS ARIAL OR UNIVERS, shall be used for printing the names of candidates, the titles of offices, political designations, and the reading form of all questions submitted. The names of candidates shall be printed in INITIAL capital FOLLOWED BY LOWER CASE letters
[in black-faced]OF NOT LESS THAN TWELVE POINT BOLD (BLACK-FACED) type. 2-A. THE NEW YORK STATE, NEW YORK CITY, AND THE COUNTY BOARDS OF ELECTIONS FOR THE COUNTIES OF NASSAU, SUFFOLK, WESTCHESTER AND ERIE SHALL AT ALL TIMES HAVE ONE FULL TIME EMPLOYEE ON STAFF WHO IS FULLY TRAINED IN EFFECTIVE BALLOT DESIGN AND BALLOT USABILITY. SUCH EMPLOYEE OF THE STATE BOARD SHALL BE AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST TO ADVISE ALL COUN- TIES ON THE PROPOSED DESIGN AND USABILITY OF THEIR BALLOTS FOR ALL PRIMARY, GENERAL AND SPECIAL ELECTIONS. S 2. This act shall take effect on the first of January next succeed- ing the date on which it shall have become a law.EXPLANATION--Matter in ITALICS (underscored) is new; matter in brackets [ ] is old law to be omitted. LBD06239-03-1