NEWS RELEASE: NYC Board of Elections Enters Nationwide Elections Competition

(BROOKLYN, NY) — The New York City Board of Elections, Democracy Works, Inc., and Common Cause have jointly submitted a proposal for the Knight News Challenge on Elections, announced today. If selected, the proposal would revolutionize the way New Yorkers receive information about elections by providing email and text message election reminders and absentee ballot tracking.

The Knight News Challenge is an open call for ideas to “better inform and inspire voters, as well as make the election process more fun and accessible for individuals.” The winners are awarded a share of a $3 million prize to implement their idea. Over 1,000 final entries were submitted.

Michael J. Ryan, Executive Director of the Board of Elections in the City of NY said, “This is an exciting opportunity for the Voters of the City of New York and the New York City Board of Elections. New York voters deserve access to 21st Century technology to obtain voting information by text messaging, email and the ability to track absentee ballots through the mail as easily as other deliveries may be tracked. The New York City Board of Elections is committed to fully modernizing the election process to better serve all voters.”

“By putting together this proposal on a shortened deadline, the Board of Elections demonstrated government at its best — acting quickly and decisively. This partnership wouldn’t have been possible without their leadership,” said Seth Flaxman, Democracy Works Co-Founder and Executive Director. “Their willingness to find creative technology solutions to the problems that face voters is an example for the entire country. It’s our pleasure to join the Board of Elections and Common Cause in the Knight News Challenge proposal.”

“Working with the New York City Board of Elections and Democracy Works on this joint proposal has been very exciting,” said Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause/NY. “It has been gratifying to brainstorm with members of the Commission and with its staff to creatively address ways that technology can overcome communications challenges faced by the election authority for our nation’s largest city.”

Democracy Works is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that develops civic technology. Their flagship program, TurboVote, was launched in 2010 to send election reminders and assist with voter registration, while their newest offering, Ballot Scout, is designed to help election administers track mail-in ballots. Versions of these programs will serve as the basis for the system implemented in New York should the proposal win the Knight News Challenge. Common Cause would then coordinate outreach to ensure community groups are using the new technology.

Common Cause is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization founded to serve as a vehicle citizens to make their voices heard in the political process. Accordingly, the orderly administration of elections, and ensuring that our elections are accessible and fair, is part of its core mission to promote civic engagement and accountability in government. Common Cause coordinates the grassroots volunteer field operation for the national Election Protection effort and places volunteer monitors in countless polling places throughout the country. In New York, Common Cause is a co-founder and facilitator of the state coalition of groups that monitor election activities, now called the New York State Voters’ Coalition. Common Cause/NY has spent decades working to expand voting rights, to ensure that every New York State citizen that wants to vote has the opportunity to do so, and be certain that their vote is counted as cast.


For more information on the Knight News Challenge, visit

For full text of the proposal from the NYC BoE, Democracy Works, and Common Cause, visit

Evaluation of the proposals will begin April 20, 2015.

Contacts: Brandon Naylor
Director of Communications, Democracy Works

Valerie Vazquez
Director of Communications and Public Affairs, NYC Board of Elections

Susan Lerner
Executive Director, Common Cause NY

Brandon Naylor