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.

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.” 

Gotham Gazette Bill Allowing Online Voter Registration in New York City Moves in State Senate, Stalls in Assembly by Samar Khurshid

Bill Allowing Online Voter Registration in New York City Moves in State Senate, Stalls in Assembly

The New York City Council passed a bill, sponsored by Council Member Ben Kallos, in late 2017 that mandated that the Campaign Finance Board build an online portal to expand access to voter registration. Currently, the state only allows online registration through the Department of Motor Vehicles website and requires an official DMV driver’s license, permit, or non-driver ID. This effectively shuts out many New York City residents who rely on mass transit and do not have a DMV-issued document.

The CFB created the portal and was ready to launch it in June of last year. It would have allowed residents to fill out the form online, with an electronic signature, and the CFB would then transmit the information to the City Board of Elections for processing. But a week before the site was to go live, the BOE added an additional hurdle that essentially negated the purpose of the portal – commissioners voted that, after receiving a form from the CFB, the BOE would mail the form to the potential voter, who would then have to return it with their physical signature. The process would have been slower than mailing in a registration form.

Gotham Gazette One Promising Reform with Rare Support from Both the City and Board of Elections, But Little Movement by Ethan Geringer-Sameth

One Promising Reform with Rare Support from Both the City and Board of Elections, But Little Movement

While city officials and elections administrators clash over what changes the Board of Elections should make to improve operations and the voting experience, one widely-supported option the city could pursue sits on the back-burner.

New York Daily News NYC Board of Elections made new online voter registration worse than paper enrollment by Anna Sanders

NYC Board of Elections made new online voter registration worse than paper enrollment

New Yorkers will be able to register to vote online later this week — but the process will take even more time than snail-mail enrollment.

The Campaign Finance Board’s new web portal will go online this Thursday after the Board of Elections voted to add another step to the process, making enrolling through the new system even more cumbersome than traditional paper registration.