SEP 28, 2021
City Council moving to electronic voting by next year, Valencia says
The City Council during its February 2020 meeting. [Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago]
The City Council is months away from adopting a system of electronic voting that could forever put an end to lengthy and confusing roll call votes, Clerk Anna Valencia said during a budget hearing on Monday.
The Clerk’s office is working by January to implement a remote-activated system mirroring the scoreboard used by Illinois legislators, Valencia said. The change is anticipated as part of the next phase of the office’s City Council Modernization plan, which also calls to digitize all council documents and widen public access to meetings by the end of next year.
Now operating a “whole paper-based system,” Valencia’s office must print and process paperwork for all city legislation, meeting minutes and attendance records, she said. The clerk added that the COVID-19 pandemic “actually made our jobs harder, believe it or not,” as the office had to print all new pieces of legislation that were scanned and emailed by aldermen.
“Anyone is welcome to take a tour of our process,” Valencia said. “If you’d ever like to see it, it will blow your mind how archaic it is.”
“Phase one” of the modernization project, set to get underway in November, will be “looking at implementation of electronic voting in chambers and remotely,” Valencia said, adding that aldermen will be invited to “trainings” and “briefings” on how to use the new system. The first phase could also include “digital co-sponsorship” and “digital submission and tracking of legislation,” she said.
The second phase, set for implementation between February and June, would take several City Council committees “completely paperless.” Valencia said the project would likely start with “heavy legislative committees” like the finance or zoning committee.
Finally, Clerk’s office officials hope by the end of next summer to implement electronic voting in committee meetings, open full access to meetings for people who are hearing-impaired or non-English speakers, and create a “digital journal” of proceedings.
Separately on Monday, Valencia said her office is on track to pull in about $136 million in revenue this year from city sticker sales and other transactions, bouncing the office back to its typical annual earnings after revenues fell to $126 million in 2020.
Valencia also touted the Reduced Term City Sticker, which starting in October 2019 allowed drivers to buy stickers for four-month terms instead of annually. She touted the new program for registering more than 7,300 new vehicles and scoring about $670,000 in additional revenue for the city.
Additionally, the clerk said her office has distributed about 57,000 CityKey municipal ID cards, which the city launched in 2016 as a way to give undocumented residents access to city services, banking, pharmacy pick-ups and temporary housing. Registering for a CityKey ID will be free for the first 100,000 users, Valencia said.
She also said she hoped to work with Secretary of State Jesse White’s office to accept CityKey IDs as a proof of address for state documents.
Valencia is one of five Democratic candidates running to succeed White, who is retiring, as the next secretary of state.
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