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October 07, 2010

 

DiNapoli Report: 44 County Boards of Elections Reported Voting Problems on Primary Day

DiNapoli Makes Recommendations to Increase Privacy and Decrease Problems for Election Day

Boards of elections in 44 counties in New York state reported voting problems on primary day that ranged from privacy issues to polls opening late, according to a report released today by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. The review looked at the state’s 57 counties outside of New York City.  DiNapoli said his office is preparing a separate report on the problems encountered by voters in New York City.

“Voting is a fundamental right and paramount to the democratic process,” DiNapoli said. “No one should worry that their privacy will be compromised while voting or that their vote won’t count because of technical difficulties. The state and county boards of elections must guarantee that every vote counts. There’s nothing more vital to our democracy than ensuring no one is disenfranchised.”

DiNapoli’s review of the 57 county boards of elections found reported problems in 44 counties that included a lack of privacy in the voting process, confusing or hard to read layouts of ballots, malfunctioning voting machines and delayed opening of the polls.

Specifically the report revealed:

  • 20 counties reported privacy concerns such as the failure to use privacy sleeves which left ballots in the view of poll workers and poll workers standing too close to voters as they filled out their ballots;
  • 15 counties experienced problems with the layout of the ballots including confusion on how to properly fill out the ballot, difficulty reading the small font size of some ballots and the faintness of the ovals on the ballot;
  • 21 counties’ voting machines malfunctioned including broken machines that needed to be swapped out or repaired and paper jams; and
  • 11 counties’ polling sites had trouble opening or closing voting machines which caused delays in opening the polling stations or reporting results when the polls closed.

DiNapoli’s report recommends county boards of elections:

  • ensure poll workers respect voters’ privacy by consistently using privacy screens and sleeves, and consider using privacy curtains;
  • require polling stations to prominently display a large-font sample ballot and provide step-by-step voting instructions;
  • ensure machines are in good working order and that back up machines are available as well as develop contingency plans to ensure all voters’ ballots are counted; and
  • provide additional hands-on training to poll workers prior to Election Day.

DiNapoli’s report also recommended that state Board of Elections officials review county ballot forms to ensure they are clear and establish a process for collecting problems identified at polling places as well as recording practical solutions. In addition, the report recommended that ballot forms included in state Election Law be updated to reflect the new voting format.

To view the report, visit: http://www.osc.state.ny.us/localgov/audits/swr/2010/countyboardelections.pdf.

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