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Push law to enlarge ballot typefaces

Voters might not need a magnifying glass next Election Day – if a local senator’s bill comes into focus.
Senator Joseph Addabbo, Jr. is sponsoring a new bill that if passed would require paper ballots to use a simple and easy-to-read bold, enlarged typeface. It would also require state and city boards of elections to employ a full-time staff member trained in ballot design and usability.
“This was the most common complaint I heard on the campaign trail from my people and I promised them that I would see it fixed,” said Addabbo, who is also the chair of the Senate’s Election Committee. “The small type size problem was particularly acute with the introduction of paper ballots statewide in 2010.”
According to the senator, current election law does not contain any requirements as to ballot readability or usability, and only requires candidates’ names to appear in capital bold-type letters with no minimum type size. This made many ballots used in the city very difficult and frustrating for voters.
The new bill aims to change the type used for the candidates’ names, their office titles and political designations, as well as all ballot questions. The new ballots would be printed in capital letters followed by lower case letters of at least 12-point bold type.
As for an on-staff expert in ballot design and usability, Addabbo said that expertise in this field is seriously lacking within the boards of elections and that this major oversight contributed to the Election Day confusion. He also added that both the city and state can train current employees, rather than hire new workers.
“Self-study of the extensive amount of literature in this field, along with some training courses, can significantly develop such expertise,” he said. “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 election boards of each of our largest counties to develop the necessary ballot design and usability.”
Addabbo is hopeful that this bill can be discussed, voted on and approved early in the 2011 legislative session. The newly introduced bill would take effect 60 days after it becomes law.

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