Upon first sight of the demonstration ballot handed out to an elderly North Shore Towers resident by members of the Board of Elections (BOE) on August 25, City Councilmember Mark Weprin thanked his lucky stars that he was not running for re-election for another three years.
“As an elected official, I’m really scared about this. I look at this ballot and – I’m not the oldest person in the room I don’t think – I can’t read this so well,” said Weprin who addressed a crowd of about 80 North Shore Towers residents who took part in a pre-election seminar designed to help familiarize voters with the new paper ballot system being first implemented in the Democratic Primary on September 14. “This is going to be the subject to a lot of consternation.”
Board of Election officials who ran the demonstration went through the voting process step by step during the recorded exhibition which will be repeated on the North Shore Towers home television station.
Instead of elected officials, those in attendance voted in eight separate races including best ice cream flavor, best vacation destination and best pizza topping. The ballot used during the demonstration was the same one they will see on the day of the primary election.
“The writing is very small. A good concession outside the North Shore Towers would be to sell reading glasses outside the polls because some people will need them,” said Weprin.
“We have grown accustomed to those old machines, but we are going to get used to this new process. It’s just going to take a while.”
When it was time to participate in a mock vote which includes filling in ovals in a privacy booth and scanning the ballot on a touch screen computer, reviews from residents were not complementary.
One woman whose ballot seemed crimpled like an old one-dollar bill argued with BOE official when her ballot was rejected by the scanner. Another woman over-voted in one race which resulted in a lengthy explanation of what happened to her ballot. She looked confused.
“I thought the representatives from the board of elections were very good but it will be a difficult process,” said a poll worker and 30-year resident of North Shore Towers. “I feel like more people should have come down to see this.”
“Let me tell you, I guarantee that people will be [at the polls] for over a half-hour,” said resident Jerry Dubowy, M.D.
In a community where some heads nod and fingers shake independently, bubbling in a tiny circle might be a larger task than the Board of Elections thinks. If there were problems voting for a favorite ice cream flavor, one could only wonder what will happen when Democrats, Republicans and Independents are on the ballot.
Weprin’s advice should be echoed all over the state:
“Come early to vote because the lines will be long.”