Capital New York Kallos Praises Progress by City Board of Elections by Miranda Neubauer
Councilman Ben Kallos on Thursday praised the Board of Elections for its progress, about a year after the board had been the focus of a critical Department of Investigation report.
Kallos positively cited the elimination of voter cards, listing voters' ages in poll books, the board's adoption of City Time, its subscription to the Social Security Death Master File Index, implementation of electronic detection of write-ins and the purchase of high-speed printers to print various types of ballots as needed.
At the preliminary budget hearing, Michael Ryan, executive director of the Board of Elections, also testified that the board had recycled 135 tons of paper by disposing voter registration documents that can now be kept electronically, and had used an automated calling service reaching out to registered voters to help recruit poll workers in areas where vacancies were anticipated.
Ryan said the board was working with the administration to secure funding to expand a pilot from last year to use tablets to transmit unofficial election night results, which would further speed up the reporting of results city-wide. "Due to the ingenious design of the software that was developed in-house ... if you happen to lose connectivity on a particular device, you can still upload the results, and then, once the connectivity is reestablished, then the results will upload sequentially based on the order in which they were ordered into the system," he said.
Ryan said the board was close to rolling out a system whereby prospective voters could fill out and submit registration forms online before completing the registration by mailing in a hard copy with a signature. He also said the board had been engaged with discussions with Common Cause and Seth Flaxman, co-founder and executive director of Turbovote, to explore partnerships to improve the voting experience, such as the ability to track absentee ballots or follow-up with voters, including through grant money that would not cost tax payer funds.
Kallos also emphasized government technology adoption in connection with other agencies' testimonies.
The Department of Citywide Administrative Services testified that all City Record data is expected to be available on the open data portal beginning in August. Kallos encouraged D.C.A. to explore ways to spread broader awareness of requests for proposals, such as to groups like the New York Tech Meetup.
He specifically highlighted a recent Law Department R.F.P. that seeks to implement Open Law legislation he successfully backed last year. The R.F.P. seeks a vendor for publishing and marketing the compilation of city rules and for establishing a database of the City Charter, the administrative code and the city rules that would be available to the public at no cost.
Nitin Patel, the chief information officer for D.C.A., described how the agency is working in-house to make the City Record more searchable in different ways. Kallos encouraged the staff to meet with the committee and the civic technologists who are working on making archived City Record editions digitally accessible to ensure consistency.
Kallos also raised the possibility the expansion of the installation of tracking units in city-owned vehicles could help with public data on and tracking of sanitation vehicles.
A panel of community board representatives also testified at the hearing about their technology challenges, such as increased network maintenance costs, technological infrastructure upgrades, as well as the expense of software licenses, such as GiS and Sketch up, that help with planning efforts. Kallos said he would be allocating member item funds to provide open-source software for client relationship management to community boards, an effort he said would also benefit legislators.
Citizens Union welcomed the efforts by the Department of Records and Information Services to begin implementing an Open Freedom of Information Law platform that would allow the public tracking of FOIL requests, but emphasized that it still believed it was necessary to legally codify the establishment of the portal, such as through legislation Kallos introduced last year.
The FOIL platform will be based on a revamped open-source government publications search portal that DORIS has launched as a beta version in cooperation with the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications.