Paper ballots cast by New York City voters last year violated a technical but mandatory part of state election law, the city Board of Elections learned this week, but board officials dismissed the revelation as a “non-issue.”
A provision of state election law requires that names of candidates on the ballot “shall be printed in capital letters.” Instead, last year’s city ballots spelled candidate names in both capital and lower-case lettering.
At a meeting this week, Commissioner Michael Ryan, the Democrat from Staten Island, grilled Board of Elections counsel Steve Richman on why the board only learned of the error six months later, according to people who attended the meeting. Board of Elections President J.C. Polanco was also reportedly upset.
“Polanco even compared the situation to Arnold Schwarzenegger having to admit making painful mistakes,” one source said, “and said that because Arnold had admitted to such grievous errors in judgment, surely Steve Richman could heed Arnold’s example and admit to making an error in not informing the Board of this issue.”
But in a subsequent interview, Polanco said the error was a “non-issue”—and that he believes it would have been impossible for the Board to spell candidate names in all capital letters anyway.
He said state law also specifies the size of the ballots and the size of the boxes that surround candidate names. Fitting all capital letters into those requirements would have been impossible in New York City, Polanco insisted, since names must be printed in a number of different languages under provisions of the federal Voting Rights Act. He also said capitalizing certain letters in Chinese or Korean could have completely changed the meaning of candidate names.
“It was a flaw in state election law,” Polanco said.