BILL NUMBER:S1928 REVISED 4/23/13
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 full 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
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: 2011 - S. 609 - Referred to Elections 2012 - S.
609-A - Died in Rules Committee
FISCAL IMPACT ON THE STATE: None.
EFFECTIVE DATE: This act shall take effect on the first day of
January next succeeding the date on which it has become a law.