New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Brigid Bergin

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. 

Gothamist A Day Of Virtual Action To Push Online Voter Registration Amid Coronavirus Outbreak by Brigid Bergin

A Day Of Virtual Action To Push Online Voter Registration Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

The state bill grew out of a push for an online voter registration system here in New York City, led by City Councilmember Ben Kallos.  He said three years ago that he wanted to make registering to vote as easy as calling an Uber. His bill passed the Council and was signed into law by Mayor de Blasio in 2017. But the New York City Board of Elections has indicated it would not process the forms completed online through a system built by the New York City Campaign Finance Board, unless it is required by a change in state law. 

Kallos said it’s time for the state to act, not just to make registering to vote easier, but to reduce the risk to public health. 

“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,” he said. “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.” 

Gothamist City Council Staffers Achieve Major Milestone In Union Push by Brigid Bergin

City Council Staffers Achieve Major Milestone In Union Push

“We will be the first unaffiliated legislative staff union,” said Wilfredo Lopez, legislative director for City Council Member Ben Kallos. “So we're excited and also scared by that prospect. But it's momentous.”

The group represents a subset of the roughly 600 staffers who work for the Council, and includes only full and part-time staff who work directly for one of the 51 members, plus certain members of the Finance division. Members of the central staff are not included in this initial unionization push, which launched its membership card campaign just two months ago.

WNYC: New York Public Radio City Election Officials Consider Online Voter Registration by Brigid Bergin

City Election Officials Consider Online Voter Registration

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.