Elections are vital to preserving democracy. As a member of the <a href="http://www.nydlc.org/" 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 <a href="http://www.whitehouse.gov/" target="_BLANK"><strong>Barack Obama</strong></a> as President and coordinate election protection for U.S. Senator <a href="http://gillibrand.senate.gov/" target="_BLANK"><strong>Kirsten Gillibrand</strong></a>'s first election to Congress, helping to <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U.S._House_election,_2006" target="_BLANK"><strong>take back the Democratic majority</strong></a> in the <a href="http://www.house.gov/" 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 <a href="http://www.votersearch.org/" target="_BLANK"><strong>VoterSearch.org</strong></a>, to help 12 million New Yorkers verify their voter registration. Since its creation <a href="http://www.votersearch.org/" target="_BLANK"><strong>VoterSearch.org</strong></a> has verified voter registrations for over 35,000 New Yorkers.<br><br>As Chief of Staff to <a href="http://assembly.state.ny.us/mem/ad=73" target="_BLANK"><strong>Assemblyman Jonathan L. Bing</strong></a>, I had the opportunity to work on ground breaking legislation to allow New Yorkers to <a href="http://assembly.state.ny.us/leg/bn=A00811" target="_BLANK"><strong>register to vote online</strong></a>. As your City Council member I will fight for <strong>transparent</strong> elections using a <a href="http://www.verifiedvoting.org/" target="_BLANK"><strong>voter verifiable paper trail</strong></a>, <strong>open</strong> voting machines with hardware and software can be reviewed by the City or State, and <strong>accountability</strong> 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.
Council Member Ben Kallos, the bill’s author, hopes that the legislation will make it easier for the city’s residents to access the ballot. “Only about 25 percent of Manhattan households own cars,” Kallos said, citing the New York City Economic Development Corporation. “Driver licenses and other state identification cards are not as common among people of color or low-income communities, so having an online voter registration system that anyone can use is incredibly important.”
Seth Stein, a spokesman for Mayor Bill de Blasio, said that the mayor’s office is reviewing the final legislation. “The Administration worked closely with the City Council in crafting this legislation,” he said. “We support online registration and making voting more accessible to New Yorkers.”
The legislation that has an 18-month timeline for implementation, but Kallos said he hopes the online registration system will be up and running “in a matter days or weeks rather than months and months,” noting that a working demonstration of the system is available on his website.
New York Daily News City Council passes bill allowing New Yorkers to register to vote online by Erin Durkin
New Yorkers will soon be able to register to vote online after the City Council passed legislation to allow it Thursday.
The city Campaign Finance Board will set up a website and create an app to allow would-be voters to register.
“It seems like every election in New York City, it’s a new low for voter turnout,” said Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan), noting the dismal turnout in last week’s mayoral election.
The council’s Committee on Governmental Operations voted to pass legislation sponsored by Councilmember Ben Kallos (D-Upper East Side) that would require the New York City Campaign Finance Board (CFB) to create a secure website and mobile app for residents who want to register to vote online.
“Democracy should be a click away. We are used to filling out forms online with the click of a mouse and voter registration should be no different. You should be registered and receive a confirmation by email, just as with any other website,” Kallos said in a statement.
Before introducing democracy voucher legislation or the CFB post-election report, however, Kallos is looking to see one of his currently-pending campaign finance reform bills passed in the waning days of this legislative session. Co-sponsored by 29 members in the 51-seat Council, the Kallos bill would increase the public matching threshold for how much candidates can receive relative to the spending limit in their races (there are lower thresholds for City Council races than borough-wide and city-wide races).
The bill had a hearing in April and Kallos said he is pushing to see it passed this term. The Manhattan Democrat saw his online voter registration bill passed on Tuesday by the governmental operations committee he chairs. The full Council is expected to pass it on Thursday and de Blasio has indicated he will sign it into law.
The de Blasio administration has indicated support for Kallos’ bill to increase the public matching threshold, which would allow candidates to run their campaigns based more on smaller, matchable donations (eligible donations up to $175 are matched six-to-one, to a certain percentage of the spending threshold, which Kallos’ bill would increase).
WNYC: New York Public Radio City Election Officials Consider Online Voter Registration by Brigid Bergin
Currently, the only way to register to vote online in New York is through the Department of Motor Vehicles. The catch is you need to have a driver's license or a non-driver id card to use that system — a system that has experienced some hiccups.
City Councilman Ben Kallos said voter registration should be as easy as calling for an Uber. He sponsored a bill to create an online portal through the website of the city's Campaign Finance Board.
"New York City residents would be able to go online, put in all of their information and they could sign on a piece of paper and take a picture, or just sign with their finger or with a stylus," said Kallos.
The key here: the voter registration forms would rely on digital signatures. State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman issued an opinion last year saying they're legal, paving the way for online voter registration.
"The bill sponsored by Councilman Kallos marks a key step forward in the fight for more accessible elections, allowing New York City to begin to bring our electoral process into the 21st century," Schneiderman said in a statement.
As New York State’s archaic election and voting laws continue to dampen voter turnout, the New York City Council is about to take a step to encourage participation. The City Council’s governmental operations committee will vote on Tuesday, November 14 to approve a bill allowing online voter registration for city residents, Council Member Ben Kallos, chair of the committee, told Gotham Gazette on Thursday. The bill is then expected to pass the full City Council on Thursday.
“With the historic low in turnout on Tuesday, online voter registration will be an essential tool to help more residents become voters,” Kallos said in a phone interview, referring to the 22 percent of registered voters who showed up to the polls to vote for mayor. Following the committee vote, the bill will head to the Council floor for a vote at its next stated meeting, he said.
UPPER EAST SIDE, NY — Two Democrats will represent the Upper East Side in the New York City council for the next four years.
Ben Kallos and Keith Powers won elections for the third and fourth districts in the city's legislative body. The New York Times called both elections for the Democrats a little more than an hour after polls closed Tuesday night.
Kallos defeated Republican Frank Spotorno to win his second term in the council's fifth district.
Powers, who will represent most of central and east Midtown, defeated Republican Rebecca Harary, the Times reported. Powers, a longtime political aide, will take over the seat vacated by the term-limited Daniel Garodnick.
Mayor Bill de Blasio easily defeated his little-known challengers to earn a second term Tuesday night, capping a sleepy campaign season with an easy win. NY1 declared victory for the Democratic incumbent at 9:26 p.m., less than a half hour after the polls closed.
But if experience matters, so does name recognition, which critics say creates an unfair advantage. The irony is that Council term limits and the city's robust public campaign finance system are designed to attract political newcomers, not professional politicians.
"The point of term limits is, we're supposed to have a citizen legislature," said City Councilman Ben Kallos of Manhattan.
Gotham Gazette Pushing Back, Board of Elections Head Insists on ‘Personal Responsibility’ for Voters by Samar Khurshid
The government operations committee, chaired by Council Member Ben Kallos, met to discuss the BOE’s $136.5 million proposed budget for the 2018 fiscal year. Council members sought answers from the board about the latest WNYC report, which came after a series of reports by Bergin exposing problems at the BOE, including tens of thousands of voters purged from the rolls ahead of the presidential election. Kallos said his wife was one of those voters whose vote did not count, and that she received a notice from the BOE just last month.
“There is a quasi-manual, quasi-automated process,” said Michael Ryan, BOE executive director, insisting that the board could not send notices to voters who aren’t in the system until they provide relevant missing information to the board.
Referring to a specific voter highlighted by WNYC, who shuttled numerous times between two poll sites in attempting to cast her vote, which eventually was not counted, Ryan said the voter’s actions on Election Day seemed “suspicious” and also said WNYC’s report, “simplistically analyzed a complex process.”