New ballot format, new options, but at least there will be no chads


The ballots we’ll be seeing in Tuesday’s election will look different than they have in the past because of changes made in recent years by the Legislature, which has the final say on everything from the overal layout to the font used for candidates’ names (it’s 12-point Helvetica condensed, in case you were wondering).

The biggest change is the lack of straight-ticket voting. This will be the first race in decades in which you cannot select all the Republican or Democratic candidates by marking just one oval.

To emphasize this change, the column headers have been reversed, with white lettering on dark bands instead of the other way around. This was done “to deter people from making marks in those bands,” said New Hampshire Deputy Secretary of State Dave Scalan.

The order of parties in the columns is not set in stone – some towns have the “Other Candidates” column listed to the right of the two parties.

The column-style layout isn’t entirely new, since it was first used in the 2007 general election, but after decades in which races were listed vertically instead of along the lefthand side, it might still be a surprise.

A minor change this election is slightly staggered names in races with more than one seat – such as the state representative race here, which has three seats.
The idea is to make sure people don’t think that individual candidates are running only against each other because their names appear to be lined up.

In this example, Henry W. McElroy isn’t running against Anthony P. Matarazzo, even though they’re the top names in their respective party listings for that seat – both are in the running for the three seats.

It’s the Secretary of State’s call as to who gets to list their nickname in the ballot.

Even visually impaired voters who use the electronic “accessible” booths will use this ballot. Those voters listen to selections over a telephone and state their preferences – the resulting marked ballot is faxed to them and then handed in, just like the ballots marked with pens by other voters.