New York

Session may resume, with few details on voting technology

The state Legislature may reconvene, but it is unlikely to follow the New York City Council in voting-by-Zoom.

A scattering of state Senators on the Senate floor March 29th.

A scattering of state Senators on the Senate floor March 29th. NY Senate Media Services

After weeks of uncertainty, there may be a glimmer of hope for those wanting the state Legislature to get back to the business of legislating.

The Times Union reported on Thursday that the Legislature made tentative plans to resume session in the next two weeks, and that majority conferences in both the Senate and Assembly met privately this week to discuss upcoming legislative priorities. Of course, plans to resume legislating in the next two weeks could always change.

But while the New York City Council debuted a new voting-by-Zoom method of legislating on Wednesday, there are few signs so far that the state Legislature would similarly vote by taking advantage of video conferencing apps such as Zoom. A spokesman for the Senate said that the body has a system for remote voting in place, but did not answer questions about what technology that system uses. A spokesperson for the Assembly didn’t respond to a request for comment.

If the state legislative session does resume, the process of voting remotely could look a lot like it did during the budget process. “I’m not speaking for the conference or the leader, but my expectation is if we were going to go back into session to take up bills, people would still be (in Albany), they would just be in their office the way they were during the budget process,” state Sen. Diane Savino, who chairs the Senate technology committee, told City & State. “I don’t anticipate the likelihood that we’ll all be home in our districts, voting from home.” Savino said that while some lawmakers may choose to participate from their districts, it’s easier to work from Albany and not very hard to social distance while in the state Capitol building.

Both houses used Zoom to pass the budget – they just didn’t use it for voting. Members of the Senate used Zoom to check in with the clerk and mark themselves as present while the budget was being voted on. City & State reported earlier this month that the Senate also had the technology to allow members to speak remotely, though none chose to do so. And when it came to actually casting their votes, both the Senate and Assembly relied on systems of effectively voting by default, showing up on the floor to cast their vote or voting using something called a Rule 9 form.

The last option is traditionally reserved for senators who want to vote against certain bills but can’t physically show up on the Senate floor to do so, but it was used by some during the budget so that senators could maintain social distancing. While voting with the Rule 9 form can technically involve the use of technology – state Sen. Julia Salazar said that she had signed one from her office then emailed it to the Senate floor counsel – it’s a more primitive method of remote voting than what some would like to see the Legislature adopt.

Spokespeople for the Senate have repeatedly said that a system for remote voting is in place, but have not made clear what it involves or how it works. Still, some expect to rely on that system if they do reconvene remotely. “I think the Senate will follow the same protocol that we had during the budget except that we won’t be voting or debating on the floor, but we have the technology in place to both cast votes and hold debates remotely,” state Sen. Brad Hoylman said. “I know they’re working out the final details.”

Earlier this month, some lawmakers, such as Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, were still unclear on the process of remote voting for the Assembly. “I don’t know how it will work,” Glick said during a conference call on April 13th. “I don’t know how we will register votes.”

Andrew Hoppin, the former chief information officer for the state Senate, has been advocating for adopting remote voting, and suggested that the Legislature’s IT staff could purchase and integrate off-the-shelf software to make that happen. Asking lawmakers to voice their votes over Zoom – as the New York City Council did – is one option, but apps geared specifically for government services, like tallying votes, are available too. Good government groups including Common Cause York have also suggested using Zoom or other off-the-shelf software. “The Legislature has the technology to remain in remote session and tackle these issues out in public through virtual, remote technologies. Lawmakers just need to use it,” Common Cause New York’s executive director, Susan Lerner, said during a recent conference call

The scenario Savino suggests, in which most lawmakers return to Albany, stands in sharp contrast to the New York City Council’s first remote meeting with most lawmakers video-conferencing in from their homes or district offices. Their first meeting on Wednesday wasn’t flawless – there were some issues with the muting function on Zoom when council members were called on to vote, and the livestream timed out for some viewers at one point – but it got the job done. As for the details on how – or whether – remote voting will take off in the state Legislature? Those are still buffering.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.