Some states want their voters to take ID cards to the polls. In New York City, you may want to bring a magnifying glass. Voters who trekked to the polls for Thursday’s primary races were handed ballots with candidates’ names printed in an eye-straining 7-point type, akin to the ingredient list on the side of a cereal box. Now the city Board of Elections is facing outsize criticism over the mite-size font. Civic groups and lawmakers are calling for reform. And some voters are wondering why the instructions on the ballot were displayed in larger and clearer typefaces than the names of the candidates and the offices they were running for. “I just stood and squinted,” recalled Elinore Kaplan, a semiretired teacher in Manhattan, who said she was upset and disappointed to have so much trouble ensuring she voted for the person she wanted to vote for. “It shouldn’t be a challenge,” she said of the ballot’s design. “It should be an invitation.”
City Council members said they had received numerous complaints, particularly from the elderly and those with visual impairments. “It disenfranchises people needlessly,” said Jessica Lappin, chairwoman of the Council’s Committee on Aging who plans on questioning the Board of Elections about the problem at a hearing next month. Particularly galling to some voters was that the tiny names often appeared beside a vast, unused white space on the ballot, raising questions as to why the designers simply did not enlarge the fonts.
Of course, New Yorkers are known for being a bit cranky, particularly when it comes to politics. An expert opinion was sought. “Wow, that’s tiny!” said James Montalbano, the founder of Terminal Design in Brooklyn, upon seeing a sample ballot. “Those names could be 40 percent larger and still fit.”