De Blasio wins; Voters lose with shoddy ballots

The line to vote outside the McBurney YMCA on W. 14th St. stretched to Sixth Ave. and then halfway up to 15th St. Photo by Lincoln Anderson

The big news this Election Day was of course Bill de Blasio’s resounding victory over Joe Lhota in the mayor’s race. Three out of four voters picked de Blasio in what is clearly an overwhelming mandate for his progressive agenda for a city that “leaves no one behind.”

Some voters admitted they would be surprised if de Blasio makes good on even half his campaign promises, noting it’s all just “politics,” after all. But clearly, de Blasio will set the city in a new direction. And we’re very hopeful for many of the ideas that he is offering, from a new, determined focus on preserving hospitals and healthcare to better police sensitivity without easing up on crime. His plan to tax the wealthy a bit more to pay for universal pre-K is a good idea and, really, a mere drop in the bucket for those who would be assessed.

Over all, de Blasio’s win is good news for the city. He’s very intelligent and attuned to the needs of constituents and the city, in general. Clearly, most of the city has rallied around his message, so it bodes well for New York’s unity moving forward.

As usual, there were issues with the actual mechanism of voting, however. This time, the way the ballot referendums were handled was horrible. All six initiatives — including a critical one to expand casino gambling in the state and city — were jammed on the back side of the ballot. If poll workers didn’t verbally alert voters to remember to flip over the ballot to see the referendums — and not all did — there was a very good chance they would never notice them. No signs were posted telling voters to do this. And, most strikingly, there wasn’t even a simple “Turn Over” notice at the bottom of the ballot’s front page. Again, we have to ask — how much money and time did the Board of Elections spend to create these ballots? Really, it is simply ridiculous.

The casino referendum was, in fact, approved, paving the way for one Vegas-style casino in the city in seven years or even sooner.

And then there was the issue of the small type — six-point — that the ballots were printed in. Many voters interviewed by The Villager said they didn’t vote on the referendums because they simply couldn’t read them. A large plastic “magnifying glass” was provided in some stalls (not all, we’re told), but it wasn’t that effective.

All of which raises the question if the optical scanner system we are using in the general elections is really the best. Today, we’re all familiar with computer touch-screen technology, thanks to A.T.M.’s and smartphones, and many people feel this is how the city should vote. A paper “receipt” could be printed, to ensure people have a “paper trail” after casting their vote.

This way, there wouldn’t be issues about small type or having to “flip over” a ballot. Like the Web itself, there would be far fewer space constraints on the ballot. There are some concerns, however, with touch-screen voting, including security against hacking, for one. The worry is that voter fraud could run rampant if the system was not secure.

Another idea is that community newspapers print the referendums beforehand to familiarize voters with them. This was something we at The Villager admittedly could have done on our own. But if the B.O.E., for example, had expressly published the referendums with us a week or two in advance, it would have ensured that thousands of voters would have been well-informed about the ballot initiatives.

In the meantime, the next time we have a double-sided ballot, would it be too much to ask B.O.E. to print a “Turn Over” stamp — in red ink — at the bottom of the front page? Failing to take some simple, commonsense measure like this is nothing less than disenfranchising voters, plain and simple.