Monday, November 01, 2010

Contradictory Instructions -- City Board’s Bizarre Reasoning

Two weeks ago, ReformNY pointed out a mistake on the instructions on the New York City Ballot regarding which oval voters were supposed to fill in. According to the City Board there was not enough time to reprint all the ballots and they would instead post a fact sheet with more clear instructions in the privacy booth.

This, we believed at the time, was an improvement and would make the process less confusing for voters. However, Friday afternoon we learned that a previous flier containing the incorrect instructions would remain in the privacy booth.

So now we have a situation where there will be two sets of instructions in the privacy booth, where the most important instructions actually contradict each other.

The reasoning for this bizarre choice? The City Board claims they are required by state law to keep the wrong set of instructions posted in the privacy booth.

We at the Brennan Center certainly can’t find any provision in New York State Election Law that requires the City Board to post inaccurate and contradictory information in the privacy booth.

While it is true that the first set of instructions was provided by the State Board and approved by the Department of Justice, they were written and approved before the City Board created a ballot that was inconsistent with the provided instructions.

We have a hard time believing that anyone would object to changing inaccurate instructions on the fact sheets in the privacy booths. In fact, according to this document from the State Board, instruction (2), which tells voters which oval to fill in, gives local boards the option of personalizing the wording depending on where the oval happens to be located on a particular ballot.

The City Board was informed of the problem nearly two weeks before Election Day, leaving plenty of time to contact the SBOE and DOJ to ask if there were any objections to removing the old instructions. However, as far as we know, they simply didn’t bother to ask. As Neal Rosenstein of NYPIRG has correctly pointed out, this is an example of the City bureaucracy simply being inactive when they should have been proactive.

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