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NEW YORK STATE ASSEMBLY
MEMORANDUM IN SUPPORT OF LEGISLATION
submitted in accordance with Assembly Rule III, Sec 1(f)
BILL NUMBER: A7492D SPONSOR: Kavanagh
TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the election law, in relation to enacting the voter friendly ballot act of 2012; and to repeal section 7-126 of such law relating to the form of ballots   PURPOSE: To create a ballot layout that is easy for voters to read and use.   SUMMARY OF PROVISIONS: Section 7-104 of the election law is amended in the following ways: o Subsection one requires use of sans serif type. o Subsection three exempts the city of New York from affixing a desig- nating letter and number on ballots for primary elections. o Subsection seven is removed which specified that each row on the ballot have an image with a closed fist and extended finger and include the party emblem. Section 7-106 of the election law is amended in the following ways: o Subsection one specifies that paper ballots shall be clearly distin- guishable from sample ballots by size, color, or other means. o Subsection two is added to require the State Board of Elections to publish and distribute a master template ballot to the counties before each statewide election. o Subsection six sets forth the requirements for instructions on a ballot by specifying that the oval or square to the left of the candi- date's name shall be marked by the voter; depending on the voting system used by counties, the oval or square to the left of the "write-in" section shall be marked if a voter wishes to cast a vote for a write-in candidate; by informing voters that they do not have to vote in every contest; and if the voter makes a mistake, 'or wants to change their vote, to ask a poll worker for a new ballot. o Subsection seven requires line drawing illustrations to supplement these instructions. o Subsection eight sets forth the specifications for instructions when voting for questions and proposals, instructing the voter to mark the oval or square to the left of the voter's choice. o Subsection ten sets forth other specifications for the ballot to be used to the extent practicable including, titles of offices and names of candidates being printed flush left in each column; the voting oval or square be placed to the left of the candidate's name; use of standard capitalization; use of a font size of not less than twelve points - or one sixth of an inch for the names of candidates; or font family, on the ballot; delineation between the ballot instructions and the first office or ballot question or proposal; consistent use of shading; if more than one candidate is to be elected in any race on the ballot, then "Vote for up to X" (providing the maximum number of candidates to be elected) shall be printed immediately below each office title appearing on the ballot; under or to the right of the name of each candidate shall be printed, in less prominent type face than that in which the candidate's name is printed, the name of the political party by which the candidate was nominated or certified; no party emblems shall be printed under or after the candidate's name that is printed on the ballot; and the names of candidates to the same office shall appear on the same page and in the same column of that page of a printed ballot, unless no alternative is possible. Section 7-114 is amended in the following ways: o The title or section is changed from "Ballots; form for primary elections" to "Ballots; form for primary elections, additional require- ments" o Subsection two is amended to allow two or more candidates running to be elected to a party position as a group to be referred to collectively on the ballot as a "group" in the City of New York. Section 7-118 of the election law is amended in the following ways: o Subsection one requires sample ballots to be distinguishable from the ballot by size, color, or other means. o Subsection three allows the boards of elections to publish a sample ballot online instead of mailing a sample ballot to every eligible voter at least three days before the election. o Subsection four allows the boards of elections to satisfy the require- ment of sending a sample ballot to all high schools in the city of New York by publishing such sample ballot on a website maintained by the boards of elections. Section 7-122 of the election law is amended in the following ways: o The instructions are simplified and should comply with the same requirements set forth in section 7-106. o Subsection four mandates that there shall be three envelopes for each absentee ballot issued by mail: the inner affirmation envelope for the ballot, outer envelope addressed to voter, and mailing envelope addressed to county boards of elections. Section 7-123 of the election law is amended in the following way: o Subsection three mandates that there shall be three envelopes for each military absentee ballot issued by mail: the inner affirmation envelope for the ballot, outer envelope addressed to voter, and mailing envelope addressed to county boards of elections. Section 7-124 of the election law is amended in the following way: o Subsection two mandates that there shall be three envelopes for each special federal absentee ballot issued by mail: the inner affirmation envelope for the ballot, outer envelope addressed to voter, and mailing envelope addressed to county boards of elections. Section 7-126 of the election law is repealed. Section 7-128 of the election law is amended in the following ways: o Subsection one is amended expand the time public for inspection of sample official ballots to 28 days, rather than the current five days and to expand the time for inspection of official ballots to 14 days, rather than the current four day requirement. o Subsection two is amended to expand the time for candidates on a ballot to inspect the ballot to 14 days rather than the current two day requirement. Section 7-130 of the election law is amended in the following way: o Removes the requirement that party emblems shall be contained on the ballot labels for ballots to be examined by voters prior to the election.   JUSTIFICATION: A ballot that is clear and simple to read makes voting easier and leads to more accurate voting. In the 2010 primary and general elections, New York voters were confronted with a ballot that was cluttered and diffi- cult to read. A post-election survey released by the New York City Coun- cil found that ballot design was among the top complaints of voters with approximately 1 in 3 voters reporting that the ballot was difficult to read or confusing. According to a report drafted by the New York City Board of Elections, at a City Council Committee Meeting held on October 4, 2010, speakers from several public advocacy groups stated that the font size used on the ballots was too small. This was exemplified by the fact that polling sites provided magnifying glasses for voters. The Voter Friendly Ballot Act will provide a remedy for New York's hard to read ballot by setting forth specifications that will create a ballot layout that is straightforward. At the same time it provides Boards of Election with the flexibility to ensure good ballot design, regardless of the particular limits of their voting technology, or the number of contests and candidates that must be placed on the ballot in any partic- ular election.   LEGISLATIVE HISTORY: 2011: A.7492A (Kavanagh) Election Law   FISCAL IMPACT ON THE STATE: To be determined.   EFFECTIVE DATE: This act shall take effect immediately, and shall only apply to ballots to be used for elections occurring after January 1, 2013.