Testimony of Seth Flaxman, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Democracy Works, before the New York City Council Committee on Governmental Operations

March 3, 2015, 10:00 a.m. 

"Chairperson Kallos, members of the committee, thank you for allowing me the opportunity to testify. My name is Seth Flaxman. I am the co-founder and executive director of Democracy Works, a 501(c)(3) civic tech nonprofit proudly based in Brooklyn and dedicated to the idea that voting should fit the way we live. 

Many of you and your constituents may have actually used our services even if you’ve never heard of us. Last year, with the support of Pew Trusts, our nonprofit collected polling place data from election officials nationwide, including here in New York City, then worked with Google so voters could Google “where do I vote?” and find the right place. We also run a website, TurboVote, that allows any American to sign up once and get help registering to vote, voting absentee, and receive text and email reminders of election dates.

But this year our nonprofit is launching a new piece of tech to tackle the exact problem you’re all here to discuss: an easy to use tool that helps election officials and voters track absentee ballots as easily as you can track packages on Amazon.

Why is tracking ballots important? In 2012 as many as 3.9 million absentee ballots sent by election officials nationwide never reached voters. And at the same time, 21% of domestic voters cast ballots by mail, double the rate of a decade ago.

But if you come away with just one point from my testimony, it should be this: postal tracking of absentee ballots is not just important, not just very feasible to implement, but it is also, affordable. One of the key reasons we decided to make Democracy Works a nonprofit was to ensure that good election technology would always be affordable for government.

Again, my name is Seth Flaxman from Democracy Works and I believe NYC can take the lead this year and become the largest city to help voters track their ballots through the mail, and I would love to serve as a helpful resource as you consider this important upgrade."

For coverage of the hearing, please see: http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5616-mail-your-vote-then-track-it-absentee-ballot-voting-kallos