What to do About a Botched Absentee Ballot

The Board of Elections responds to our recent article

14 Oct 2020 | 01:38

Fill in the oval on your mail ballot, the Board of Elections said Wednesday, even though it isn’t where the instructions tell you to look for it.

The Board’s spokesman, Valerie Vazquez-Diaz, was responding to a Straus News article which pointed out that the instructions for the mail ballots said fill in the oval to the left of the candidate of your choice - but the only ovals were above the names of candidates.

The issue was one of several that provoked concerns about mail ballots in New York City.

“Will the ballot be counted if marked above instead of to the left?” asked Karen Krams, a “neighbor and senior” on the Upper West Side. “Or need one ask for a new ballot? In addition, my ballot is marked “Absentee Military Ballot.” I am not, nor ever was, in the Military. Again, will my ballot be counted?”

Vazquez-Diaz said the ballot would be counted if voters simply filled in the oval above the candidate of their choice, ignoring the instructions to look for an oval to the left.

She explained that the problem arose because the language of the instructions is fixed in state law.

But that created a readability problem for the ballot when the Board of Election sought to lay it out, she said. “If we were to put the oval to the left it would have forced us to minimize the font. The decision was made to put it above.”

This confusion was virtually identical to a problem that developed on the election day ballot ten years ago. At that time, The Board of Elections also explained that the disparity between the instructions and the location of the ovals was caused by state law dictating the instructions.

Vazquez-Diaz also said that ballots carrying the phrase absentee military would be valid even if the voter had not served in the military.

She also reminded voters to remember to sign and date the envelope in which they return the completed ballot. “If they don’t sign and date it that is cause to invalidate.”