New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos


Elections are vital to preserving democracy. As a member of the&nbsp;<a href="; target="_BLANK"><strong>New York Democratic Lawyers Council</strong></a>, I had the opportunity to help build a coalition of lawyers and others dedicated to fostering universal participation and trust in the electoral process by ensuring that all eligible person can register to vote easily, vote simply, fairly, without intimidation, and that all votes are counted on open and reliable voting systems. While rising to the position of State Coordination Committee Chair, I had the opportunity to organize and manage over 4,000 New York attorneys and 350 New York law students, who helped protect our right to elect&nbsp;<a href="; target="_BLANK"><strong>Barack Obama</strong></a>&nbsp;as President and coordinate election protection for U.S. Senator&nbsp;<a href="; target="_BLANK"><strong>Kirsten Gillibrand</strong></a>'s first election to Congress, helping to&nbsp;<a href=",_2006&quot; target="_BLANK"><strong>take back the Democratic majority</strong></a>&nbsp;in the&nbsp;<a href="; target="_BLANK"><strong>House of Representatives</strong></a>. While working with this organization, I first discovered that over 800,000 New Yorkers had been dropped from the New York State Voter Registration List and without much time before the election, I created&nbsp;<a href="; target="_BLANK"><strong></strong></a>, to help 12 million New Yorkers verify their voter registration. Since its creation&nbsp;<a href="; target="_BLANK"><strong></strong></a>&nbsp;has verified voter registrations for over 35,000 New Yorkers.<br><br>As Chief of Staff to&nbsp;<a href="; target="_BLANK"><strong>Assemblyman Jonathan L. Bing</strong></a>, I had the opportunity to work on ground breaking legislation to allow New Yorkers to&nbsp;<a href="; target="_BLANK"><strong>register to vote online</strong></a>. As your City Council member I will fight for&nbsp;<strong>transparent</strong>&nbsp;elections using a&nbsp;<a href="; target="_BLANK"><strong>voter verifiable paper trail</strong></a>,&nbsp;<strong>open</strong>&nbsp;voting machines with hardware and software can be reviewed by the City or State, and&nbsp;<strong>accountability</strong>&nbsp;with the requirement that with a transition to a paper based ballot, that all optical scanned paper ballots be posted online for the people to verify and audit should they so choose.

Gotham Gazette Public Matching Funds, A Crucial Campaign Lifeline, Are On The Way by Martin Rather

Public Matching Funds, A Crucial Campaign Lifeline, Are On The Way

The city’s matching funds program has already been proven to work. In the 2019 Public Advocate special election, small-dollar contributions went from about 25% of all funds raised to more than 66%, according to data from City Council Member Ben Kallos of Manhattan. That race drew 17 candidates, a harbinger of what was to come for 2021. New York City’s matching funds program means more candidates, better campaigns, and greater choices for voters at the ballot box.

Gotham Gazette Bills Would Further Restrict Coordination Between City Candidates and Independent Expenditure Campaigns by Samar Khurshid

Bills Would Further Restrict Coordination Between City Candidates and Independent Expenditure Campaigns

As the city heads into the 2021 municipal elections that are already drawing hundreds of candidates and will see many millions of dollars in campaign spending, a City Council member wants to preempt violations of the law on independent expenditures by increasing penalties. 

Council Member Ben Kallos, a Democrat from the Upper East Side who is running for Manhattan borough president in the 2021 election cycle where all of city government is on the ballot, will introduce two bills on Thursday to penalize candidates who coordinate with independent expenditure campaigns by reducing the candidates’ spending limits and by directly fining independent spenders who try to circumvent the rules.

Under Kallos’ proposals, there would be new, more closely defined forms of coordination between a candidate campaign and an independent spender, and fines for violations extended to agents of an independent expenditure campaign.

New York Daily News Petition gathering makes no sense during COVID outbreak, say NYC Council Members by Shant Shahrigian

Petition gathering makes no sense during COVID outbreak, say NYC Council Members

The coronavirus outbreak gives renewed importance to a bill ending the petition-gathering part of qualifying for local elections, says Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan).

Under a bill he introduced in 2016, the city would end the requirement for candidates for City Council and other offices to gather signatures of support in order to run.

Instead, Kallos says raising enough cash to qualify for matching funds from the city’s Campaign Finance Board should suffice.

“On the list of bad ideas to do during a pandemic is running around asking people to sign a piece of paper so that folks can get on the ballot,” Kallos told the Daily News on Monday.

“We’re going to have hundreds of people running for City Council in 2021,” he continued. “The idea that we’re going to have millions of people touching the same pens, signing the same petition boards — it’s looking for trouble, even if we do it safely.”

WCBS Radio Council member: 'Corrupt Albany Legislature' to blame for long lines at NYC early voting sites by Steve Burns

Council member: 'Corrupt Albany Legislature' to blame for long lines at NYC early voting sites

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) -- Fingers are being pointed in all directions after early voting lines snaked around buildings and stretched across city blocks this weekend.

Some saw the long lines outside voting sites in New York City on Saturday as a sign of voter enthusiasm, but Council Member Ben Kallos also sees it as bureaucratic incompetence.

“The Upper East Side and East Harlem had one site to share, and that’s just not enough,” Kallos said.

Asked about the issue on Sunday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said it falls to the city Council to change how the city Board of Elections works.

“If they want to make a change, they should just pass it. And whatever they pass, I will support in the Legislature,” the governor said.

But Kallos said state law mandates a certain number of early voting sites in any county and that the number is not at all tied to population density in that county, which led to the multi-hour waits this weekend.


Gothamist Politics As Usual: City Council Democrats Approve Elections Commissioners by Brigid Bergin

Politics As Usual: City Council Democrats Approve Elections Commissioners

Pepe-Souvenir, an attorney from Brooklyn, works as the Title IX Coordinator for CUNY’s Central Office and serves as president of the Haitian American Lawyers Association. Nominated by the current Brooklyn Democratic Leader, Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte, Pepe-Souvenir garnered 42 votes. Only City Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer opposed the appointment, as a matter of principle. 


Only two members besides Van Bramer bothered to explain their votes. Manhattan City Councilmember Ben Kallos, who has long-championed reform at the Board of Elections and is running for Manhattan Borough President, said his conversation with Pepe-Souvenir left him satisfied that she would work to overcome long lines, broken machines and would work to expand early and online voting. 

WCBS Radio New York City Launches Absentee Ballot Tracker For November Election by Steve Burns

New York City Launches Absentee Ballot Tracker For November Election

Voters want certainty around their ballot and the absentee ballot tracker will provide that," said City Council Member Ben Kallos, who passed a bill in 2016 that mandated the city Board of Elections create this tracker, but the board told him they don't answer to the City Council. "I am grateful that the Board of Elections finally saw it fit to do their jobs."

New York Daily News Is the NYC Board of Elections ready for November’s presidential election? by Shant Shahrigian

Is the NYC Board of Elections ready for November’s presidential election?

The city Board of Elections, which launched a Herculean, last-minute effort to conduct the vote amid fears of spreading the virus, got mixed reviews for its handling of the ballot — and its outlook for the fall.

“I have no confidence in the November election,” NYC Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan) told the Daily News. “There’s a possibility that the absentee ballot is restricted again because we have one of the most backward laws in the country.”

He faulted the BOE for failing to follow a 2016 law he authored requiring the board to track absentee ballots from request to receipt — one of the issues at the heart of discounted ballots in June.

“We can cut their funding,” Kallos said of the board’s intransigence. “But in this case, cutting funding to the Board of Elections would only result in worse elections.”

Gotham Gazette Next Steps to Ensure Voter Access Amid Coronavirus by Ben Kallos Jarret Berg

Next Steps to Ensure Voter Access Amid Coronavirus

As the American people hunker down under a patchwork of evolving emergency orders and health directives, our communities are grappling with extraordinary circumstances disrupting and reorienting our lives and the economy. To flatten the curve of community spread during the increasingly deadly COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Cuomo has placed New York on PAUSE; Health officials have issued stay-at-home and social distancing directives; schools, playgrounds, and non-essential facilities are closed. Further restrictions may be imposed. The duration uncertain.

But when it comes to the fate of civil rights during states of emergency, historically the paradigm is less uncertain—there is an irresistible tendency across the globe for authorities to suspend the normal order in the name of imminent, amorphous threats of unknown duration, leading to the incremental curtailment of freedoms that we take for granted (like unfettered travel, transportation, assembly, and enterprise to name a few). The new normal makes prioritization of due process seem quaint, but it is even more critical when the exigencies of the moment impose security measures that inadvertently raise old voter-access hurdles to new, perhaps insurmountable heights.

In this case we can dispense with skepticism over the emergency itself. The pandemic is most certainly real. But already, COVID-19 has scrambled our democratic process. The Democratic National Committee has postponed its convention as 15 states are postponing 2020 primaries and some are adjusting voting policies so residents aren’t forced to choose between safety and casting a ballot. That’s the goal.  

New York County Politics Manhattan COVID-19 News Roundup by Michael Rock

Manhattan COVID-19 News Roundup

Kallos Promotes Electronic Voter Registration

Council Member Ben Kallos

Council Member Ben Kallos

The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted more lawmakers to consider electronic voter registration as an option, Gothamist reported Tuesday.

As the piece explains, a current bill from State Senator Zellnor Myrie (D-Brooklyn) and Assemblymember Michael Blake (D-Bronx) grew out a push by City Councilmember Ben Kallos (D-Upper East Side, Yorkville, Lenox Hill, Carnegie Hill, Roosevelt Island, Midtown East, Sutton Place, East Harlem) to allow residents of the five boroughs to register to vote online. Despite the bill passing into law, the city’s Board of Elections would not honor online registrations because the city Campaign Finance Board created the system. 

“While we’re telling everyone to just stay home, it’s wrong to still require people to print out a voter registration form, fill it out by hand, get a postage stamp, go to a post office, expose themselves to mail it, when we could just as easily do it online,” Kallos told Gothamist. “And then, similarly, it’s a little bit crazy that we would require very low-wage workers at the Board of Elections, often making minimum wage, to go in at a time like this and literally transcribe what people hand write into a computer, when we could just skip the step…let people enter it from home and keep everybody safe during the process.”