Registering to vote in New York City is about to get easier to do with a snap of a picture or even a swipe on your phone. This December, 2016, Mayor de Blasio signed Legislation to bring all New York City Residents Online Voter Registration which is currently available in 36 States.
Int. No. 508-2017, Ben Kallos (City Council District 5) requires the NYC Campaign Finance Board (CFB) to create a Portal within 18 months to enable New Yorkers to Register to Vote Electronically. The CFB will deliver Digitally signed Voter Registration Forms to the City Board of Elections (BOE) for processing. Reinvent Albany believes Government should use Technology to improve service delivery and engage New Yorkers, and therefore supports this Legislation. They believe Digital Signatures are the Legal Equivalent to Handwritten Signatures and the BOE should process Digitally Signed Forms.
Currently, the only Agency authorized to accept Online Registration Forms is the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), but only for People who already have DMV Identification. The City Bill would allow the CFB to perform that role as well and would allow Voters to submit Electronic Signatures matching their “wet” ink Signature on paper. It would ease the process of Registration for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers, many from low-income communities of color who may lack DMV Identification since they depend on Public Transportation.
Following the Bill’s passage, the BOE sought guidance from its parent body, the State BOE. But the Democratic and Republican State BOE Commissioners reached a Split Verdict. In separate Memoranda sent to the City BOE, the Democrats Approved of the Bill while the Republican Commissioners questioned its Validity.
In a Memorandum to the City BOE dated December 11th, Todd Valentine, the Republican Co-Executive Director of the State BOE, argued that the Council’s Bill “would contravene New York State Constitution, state statutes and the rulings by the New York State Court of Appeals.”
He cited a 1985 Decision in Clark v Cuomo by the New York State Court of Appeals, which effectively Prohibits any State or City Agency that has not been specifically Authorized under State Law to Distribute and Collect Voter Registration Forms.
He also argued against Acceptance of Electronic Signatures, insisting that they do not meet the Standards for an Affidavit under the Electronic Signatures and Records Act (ESRA), though he did say the ESRA’s Application is Voluntary for Agencies.
A Voter Registration Form effectively functions as an Affidavit and Registrants can be held Criminally Liable for Falsifying their Information.
NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker