Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Our sample ballot slip-up

It seems we got a lot of people upset by not publishing a sample ballot in the paper on the Thursday before Election Day. I'm very sorry. We've got at least one letter to the editor this week (in The Suffolk Times) blasting us for not printing the ballot.

I wanted to get the sample ballot in a digital format, as a portable document file (PDF) which provides the best image for reproduction. Up until a couple of years ago, we had to get the paper version (we had to drive to Yaphank to the Board of Elections to pick it up, too) and then scan it to create a digital image of it for use in the paper.

Last year, I asked and got the sample ballot as a PDF — emailed to me! No wasted time or gas, and the reproduction quality was great.

This year I figured we'd do the same thing. So I called the Board of Elections and asked. I was told I had to fax a letter with my request to the BOE Commissioners and they'd get back to me. (I got the same answer to my question about what phone number we should print for voters to call if they have problems at the polls — fax the question to the commissioners! Why is it that a Board of Elections employee who answers the phones there a few days before Election Day doesn't know if the BOE has a hotline number for reporting poll problems? That's preposterous!)

Anyway, I faxed my request for the sample ballot PDF as instructed.

The BOE emailed the sample ballot PDF to me at 4 PM on Wednesday, too late to make it into Thursday's paper; The News-Review is already at the printer and The Suffolk Times is on its way!

That resulted in a number of people calling the paper to complain that we let them down — they rely on us to provide the sample ballot they like to study before going to the polls — as well as a scathing letter to the editor from someone who sees this failure as an indication that our journalistic standards are slipping.

Next year, I will try to get the PDF, but I'm going to get my hands on that paper sample ballot just as soon as the BOE will let us have it. I don't mind getting slammed for unpopular positions we take in editorials. But I hate being held responsible for bureaucratic paralysis at government agencies, especially the BOE, which should have been able to fulfill my request for a PDF within minutes. This is, as they say "the digital age." Somebody please tell the folks in Yaphank.

Regardless, I take responsibility for not having the ballot in the paper, where it should have been, and I apologize.


ceil said...

Oh, brother - I find it outrageous
that the BOE can't get their act together...Too much paper work for a simple request. This type of bureaucratic nonsense is a waste of time!

As far as the citizens being outraged c'mon how can you put this mistake (not your fault)on par with slipping journalistic intergrity - more nonsense!

Ok you took the blame, sometimes we have to take the high road, but personally I would request a letter
of responsibility from the BOE. Send the BOE your post and the letter to the editor from the outraged citizen. It's worth a try.

Bill said...

Even more important than a sample ballot is an absentee ballot. My wife had to leave town on very short notice before the election. However, she obtained a request form for an absentee ballot at the post office, filled it out and mailed it one day before the deadline (according to the instructions on the form). She never received a ballot or any response at all.