On the steps of City Hall earlier this afternoon, council members and good-government advocates gathered to “sound the alarm” over problems that occurred during the September 13 primary elections, and urged both the Board of Elections and legislative bodies to act promptly to rectify the situation before November’s presidential election, when far more people are set to vote.
Councilman Jumaane Williams, who tweeted up a storm of frustration last Election Day and who led today’s event, urged everyone to pay particular attention to the tiny font size used on the ballots, which he said was significantly smaller than in past elections and created substantial problems for seniors unable to read the letters. To prove his point, he pointed to a poster that illustrated the smallness of the font. His colleague, Councilman Vinnie Gentile, channeled Jimmy McMillan, exclaiming, “The font is too damn small!”
A host of other problems were cited as well, including poll workers giving inaccurate information and improperly sending others to the wrong polling location, which allegedly led to a number of voters to give up in frustration.
Also on hand at today’s press conference was Board of Elections Commissioner J.C. Polanco, a Bronx Republican who’s become a bit of an antagonist to the board’s critics since elected officials blasted the city’s vote-counting operations in the wake of the June 26 congressional primaries.
“I couldn’t stay quiet,” Mr. Polanco told Politicker about his new media-friendly role. “There was misinformation being given.”
Of today’s event, he said, “There were some things at the press conference today that were unfortunately misguided.” Mr. Polanco argued the Legislature is responsible for all of the election woes described and said the BOE was more than happy to work with lawmakers to fix the problems.
Of course, the State Legislature in Albany is not known for fixing election problems. Notably, State Senate refused to move the state’s primaries to the same date as the federal election after losing a lawsuit, instead choosing to hold two separate primaries despite the expense and confusion involved.
We asked Common Cause’s Susan Lerner why she is optimistic anything can be accomplished when it’s more than possible some powerful political forces prefer lower voter turnout.
“What’s the alternative? That we say nothing can change?” she rhetorically asked. “This is actually something easy for them to change.”