Tracking Absentee Ballots and Applications Would be Enabled by Council Bill

New York, NY --  New Yorkers could easily track their absentee ballot applications online, if Council Member Ben Kallos’ bill, introduced today, becomes law. One in five Americans vote absentee, but 250,000 of those ballots were rejected in 2012,according to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. The bill requires the Board of Elections (BOE) to provide a secure website through which any registered voter can track the following:

  • Receipt of application for absentee ballot by Board of Elections
  • Approval or rejection of application, and reason if rejected
  • Status of ballot being mailed
  • Receipt of completed ballot by Board of Elections
  • Status of counting completed ballot and reason if rejected

Tracking absentee ballots began at the federal level with the 2009 Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act, which required states to provide a free access system for overseas military voters who requested absentee ballots. Following this law, some states, including Massachusetts, Iowa and Florida expanded it to allow all voters to track their absentee status.
“No one's vote should never get lost in the mail,” said Council Member Ben Kallos, Chair of the New York City Council Committee on Governmental Operations. “Every voter should have up to date information on their vote and if it was counted.”

“Voters who jump through the hoops of New York’s miserly absentee balloting system deserve to know whether their absentee ballot requests were ever received, and whether their ballots were ever counted. The Center for Popular Democracy commends Council Member Kallos for proposing an easy means for city residents to get answers to those very basic questions," said Steven Carbo, Director of Voting Rights and Democracy Initiatives at the Center for Popular Democracy.
Kallos passed the Expanded Agency-Based Voter Registration bill to mandate that more agencies proactively assist New Yorkers in registering to vote, and has sponsored legislation to allow New Yorkers to register online and vote two weeks early in municipal elections. His Young Adult Voter Registration bill would distribute registration forms to high school seniors in their classrooms and graduations. The package of pro-voter legislation is aimed at increasing New York City’s dismal participation rates. Only 24% of registered voters cast a ballot in the 2013 elections. New York State is 47th among states in participation rates in the nation, according to the 2010 Mayor’s Report on Voter Access in New York.