NYC Deserves Great Voting Technology and Ballot Design
Just another average day in the life of Art Chang! Art testified before the New York City Council Committee on Governmental Operations yesterday on the potential for city government to use Web 2.0 technology to give New Yorkers the great voting technology we deserve:
Testimony of Art Chang
New York City Voter Assistance Advisory Committee
City Council Committee on Governmental Operations
September 22, 2011
Good Afternoon Chairwoman Brewer and Committee members. I am Art Chang, Chair of the Voter Assistance Advisory Committee (VAAC). With me today is Amy Loprest, Executive Director of the New York City Campaign Finance Board. Thank you for the opportunity to testify before you today.
As you may know, the Voter Assistance Advisory Committee was created by an amendment to the city Charter last November. I also serve as a member of the Campaign Finance Board. I thought it might be helpful for me to tell you a little about myself to help provide context for the comments I will offer shortly on the ballot and voting process. I formed my company, Tipping Point Partners, in 2005 to bring together technologists, entrepreneurs and investors to create and grow Internet and mobile startups that can provide the tools to transform the nature of work in and the way people relate to large enterprises, including government. But you don’t have to be a professional to recognize the tremendous potential of technology as a vehicle for change.
I’m not here to repeat the excellent testimony of Assemblyman Kavanaugh or the specific and excellent work of the Brennan Center, but to raise more fundamental questions about voting technology, which is the interface between the people and the democratic process. In the last fifteen years, we’ve witnessed a revolution in the way people access, receive, and share information. Technology has fundamentally transformed American life; making it easy to connect with old friends, share opinions with strangers and simplify and streamline our lives from shopping to banking to filing our taxes, electronically. No institution touches our daily lives as much as city government, yet the ease and accessibility of these tools has yet to transform the way citizens connect with their representatives and leaders at the local level, or for that matter, at any level. Now is the opportunity for government to apply the people-focused principles of Web 2.0 technology widely available in the consumer sphere to give New Yorkers the great voting technology we deserve.
Technology is not a solution; it is a vehicle to this end. Ballot design, for example, is a critical aspect of improving the voting process. But it must be supported by a system that accurately and efficiently records our votes. If votes are cast electronically, we should not have to count paper ballots. Imagine a system that enabled us to count electronic votes as they are cast, and report results to the public more quickly. This would be a great step forward, increasing efficiency and transparency in the voting process.
While I understand that this issue is largely out of the purview of the City Council and the city’s Board of Elections, I’d be remiss not to take this opportunity to publicly comment that the city deserves a voting system that offers its citizens the same ease and accessibility that they may find elsewhere in their everyday lives. The potential to apply simple technology to invigorate and inspire more citizens to register to vote and to participate in local elections is great. We must leverage our city’s technology expertise to explore new ways to simplify and streamline the most fundamental elements of voting, starting with voter registration through the casting of votes to the counting of ballots. We, as a community, must pressure the state to allow for the flexibility to easily incorporate new tools and technologies that will drive these improvements.
We hope the state finds a way to enable the Board of Elections to make the ballot clear and legible, and further urge the Council to continue the conversation about how to employ widely accepted and adopted technology to our voting process. Thank you again for the opportunity to testify about the proposed resolution. I am happy to answer any questions you may have and I look forward to continuing this conversation in the future.
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