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New York City Calls for 'Brilliant' Tech Minds to Spur Voter Engagement

BY Nick Judd | Wednesday, May 11 2011

The New York City Campiagn Finance Board announced the first four members of the new Voter Assistance Advisory Committee, a nine-member board of political appointees residing at CFB that is mandated in the City Charter — and the composition of the board makes it clear that they'll be seeking new ways to use technology to encourage voter engagement.

The committee's new chair, Art Chang, is a venture capitalist and founder of Tipping Point Partners. The committee also includes Anthony Cassino, a lawyer, mayoral appointee to several other boards and committees, and former City Council candidate who I covered in the Bronx as he became one of the earliest local adopters of online campaigning tools. The other two appointees announced today are John Avlon, the senior political columnist for Newsweek, and Jane Kalmus, who served as vice-chair of the city's Voter Assistance Commission from 1990 until 2010, according to a CFB press release.

"The vision is that the city has been, over history, a leader in terms of finding ways to engage voters, whether it's through public financing whether it's through creating a voter assistance commission to begin with in 1988-89," the CFB's director of external communications, Eric Friedman, told me. "We need to find a way to step up and take a leadership role again."

To do that, appointees selected by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the City Council speaker, Christine Quinn, and the city's borough presidents — who serve mostly as advocates for their boroughs, although they retain some influence in planning and economic develompent — are nearly certain to turn to the Internet and mobile devices.

"We're going to need partners in the tech community in New York City, brilliant minds here that we're going to need to engage, if we're going to be successful," Friedman told me.

Update: The Voter Assistance Commission was created in 1989, and has existed in various forms as a mayoral agency for most of the past 22 years. The Charter amendment transferred the responsibilities of commission to the CFB in the hope, Friedman writes in an email, "that giving it a home with an independent, non-partisan agency with independent budget authority might help reinvigorate its mission; it also created the new Voter Assistance Advisory Committee to aid the CFB in this work."

Video of the announcement will be available here before the end of the day, Friedman says.

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