Voter Information Portal (VIP) Bill by Kallos Passes New York City Council

05/05/2016
Resolutions Calling on Albany to Enact Same-day Voter Registration and Early Voting Also Pass
 
New York, NY – After more than 120,000 voters in Brooklyn were reported to have been disenfranchised the City Council passed legislation today authored by Council Member Ben Kallos that could have helped avoid confusion on Primary Day by providing voters with the information online and on their phones necessary to participate in elections and verify their votes were counted.
 
The Mayor sought to implement this new policy last week by offering $20 million to the Board of Elections, which the Board of Elections has rejected. The City Council is now mandating many of these reforms, which if signed by Mayor de Blasio, would have the force of law.
 
“Voters shouldn’t have to continually check their status before casting a ballot. But unless Albany finally updates its archaic and disenfranchising election laws, the onus is on voters to verify their eligibility before each election,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “Voter registrations should not be an obstacle that leads to disfranchisement.”
 
Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito highlighted the bill in her 2016 State of City speech, as part of a series of reforms to improve civic engagement in the City. As chair of the Committee on Governmental Operations, Council Member Kallos has made increasing voter engagement and Board of Elections reform a top priority. According to the New York City Campaign Finance Board (CFB), only 20% of eligible New York City voters cast their ballots in the 2014 General Election, an historic low. According to the Unites States Election Project (USEP), New York State had 29% of eligible voters cast their ballots in the 2014 midterms, making the state 49th in the nation for voter participation. This legislation aims to reverse ever-decreasing voter turnout in city elections by improving the overall experience and ensuring that voters are empowered since they will now have access to registration status and other important information such as poll site locations through the web
 
Having the Voter Information Portal could have prevented what occurred in the April primary when voters were not on the rolls because they:
  • Were not affiliated with the Democrat or Republican parties which had primaries;
  • Missed the deadline for registration or their registration was not received;
  • Addresses changed between elections without updating voter registrations;
  • No longer able to vote for missing two consecutive Federal Elections and failing to respond to a cancellation notice; or
  • No longer able to vote because a notice from the Board of Elections was returned to sender along with a cancellation notice. 
The Voter Information Portal (“VIP”) will improve voter engagement and prevent disfranchisement by giving residents the ability to:
  • Verify registration, eligibility, party affiliation, voting history;
  • Learn what is in on the ballot and where to vote;
  • Subscribe and manage electronic alerts for upcoming deadlines;
  • Update registration information online; and
  • Track an absentee ballot from request to receipt.
Since 2007, upon identifying that over one million voters were dropped from poll books ahead of the 2008 Presidential Primary, Kallos launched VoterSearch.org so that New Yorkers could verify their voter registration status. Since then, over 150,000 New York State residents have done so and the State Board of Elections has launched a similar tool at https://voterlookup.elections.state.ny.us/votersearch.aspx
 
Resolution 848, which passed today, calls for Albany to enact a voter Empowerment Act that would implement measures to streamline the voter registrations process making it same-day and allowing the pre-registration for 16 and 17 year olds as well as allowing automatic transfers of registrations of New Yorkers who move with state lines. The deadlines for registration and party enrollment would also be expanded to 10 days prior to the election.

Preconsidered Resolution 1061, which also passed, calls on Albany to pass A.2644 to amend the State Constitution and establish no-excuse absentee voting, so that individuals may vote by absentee ballot without one of the current constitutionally valid qualifications.

Legislation included in the Elections Reform package which includes items previously heard by the Committee on Governmental Operations chaired by Kallos and highlighted in Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito’s State of the City also include:
  • Introduction 62-A by Council Member Garodnick requiring notices on former poll sites used in the previous four years.
  • Introduction 463-A by Council Member Vacca providing e-mail and text message notifications to New York City voters.
  • Resolution 553-A by Council Member Cabrera calling on the New York State Legislature to pass, and the Governor to sign, A.8582-A and S.3813-B, which would allow early voting in New York State.
  • Resolution 848 by Council Kallos calling upon the New York State Legislature and the People of the State of New York to amend the State Constitution, and the New York State Legislature to pass and the Governor to sign legislation amending the Election Law to establish same-day and online voter registration.
  • Preconsidered Resolution by Kallos calling upon the New York State Legislature to pass, and the Governor to sign, A.2644, and the electors of the State of New York to approve and ratify the resulting constitutional amendment, to establish no-excuse absentee voting.
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