Voter Assistance Advisory Committee Members
VAAC advises the CFB on its voter engagement efforts and recommends legislative and administrative changes to improve NYC elections.
VAAC consists of nine members. The mayor and speaker of the City Council each appoint two members; their respective appointees may not be enrolled in the same political party. The comptroller appoints one member, and the borough presidents jointly appoint another. The chair is appointed by the mayor in consultation with the speaker. The public advocate and the executive director of the City Board of Elections (or, in his or her absence, the deputy executive director) serve ex-officio. In making appointments to the committee, the Charter advises that "the mayor, speaker, comptroller and borough presidents shall consider experience with groups or categories of residents that are underrepresented among those who vote or among those who are registered to vote and community, voter registration, civil rights, and disabled groups."
John Avlon is the Editor in Chief of the Daily Beast and a CNN contributor. He is the author of “Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe is Hijacking America” as well as “Independent Nation: How Centrists Can Change American Politics.” Previously, he was a columnist and associate editor for the New York Sun and the youngest and longest-serving speechwriter in Mayor Giuliani’s City Hall. He was appointed by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg in May 2011 and reappointed on January 1, 2013. His term will expire on December 31, 2017.
Daniele Gerard is a staff attorney at Children's Rights and a former commercial litigator and prisoners’ rights attorney. Ms. Gerard has worked as a political activist on the Upper West Side, participating in the grassroots movements to ban fracking in New York State and to close the Indian Point nuclear power plant. She also serves on the board of an Upper West Side food pantry. Ms. Gerard has a BA from Johns Hopkins University and a JD from Columbia University School of Law. She was appointed by Comptroller Scott Stringer on January 1, 2015. Her term will expire on December 31, 2019.
Joan P. Gibbs
Joan P. Gibbs is currently the General Counsel for the Center for Law and Social Justice (CLSJ), Medgar Evers College. Prior to joining the staff of the CLSJ, she was the staff attorney at the Center Constitutional Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Women’s Rights Project and a Marvin Karptakin Fellow in the National Office of the ACLU. Ms. Gibbs has devoted her entire legal career to the practice of constitutional and civil rights law. She is currently focusing on racial justice litigation, voting rights and immigration. Ms. Gibbs received her JD from Rutgers Law School in Newark, New Jersey and is admitted to practice of law in New York and New Jersey. She was appointed by the city’s Borough Presidents.
Letitia "Tish" James
Ex-Officio VAAC Member
Letitia “Tish” James (Public Advocate) was born and raised in Brooklyn and continues to call the borough home. After graduating from Howard University School of Law, Ms. James began her career in public service, as a public defender in the Legal Aid Society. She represented low-income children and families in the criminal justice system. She later served as a top-level aide in the State Assembly and as an Assistant Attorney General for New York State (Brooklyn Region), where she resolved hundreds of consumer complaints and investigated predatory lenders who prey on first-time home-buyers. She assisted the Civil Rights Bureau in its investigation of the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy and cracked down on firms engaged in deceptive business practices including violations of human rights, environmental laws, and scams targeting immigrants. As a member of the New York City Council, Ms. James introduced and helped pass the Safe Housing Act, which became City law in 2007. This ground-breaking bill ensured that thousands of families in rental buildings receive prompt and full repairs to their apartments. Ms. James also helped preserve after-school programs and childcare slots. She used her City Council position to take on Stop and Frisk abuses and anti-choice extremists who use “limited-service” health clinics to deny women the right to choose. In the 2013 general election, Ms. James won the most votes of any New York City-wide candidate, making her the fourth Public Advocate of New York City. Ms. James is a graduate of New York City public schools and CUNY’s Lehman College. (The Public Advocate serves as an ex-officio member of the Voter Assistance Advisory Committee; Umair Khan serves as Proxy.)
Ex-Officio VAAC Member
Michael Ryan, Executive Director of the NYC Board of Elections, serves as an ex-officio member of the Voter Assistance Advisory Committee.
Patrick Ryan worked on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC until 2012, when he moved to New York City to join then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Hurricane Sandy recovery team, focused primarily on helping Staten Island neighborhoods navigate the disaster recovery process. In mid-2014, he joined the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency, which is responsible for implementing projects to prepare New York City for future disasters. He recently joined the office of Congressman Dan Donovan, who represents Staten Island and South Brooklyn, as Communications Director. Mr. Ryan has a B.S. in Business Administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and will receive an M.A. in Government from Johns Hopkins University later this year. He was appointed by City Council Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito on November 9, 2015. His term will expire on December 31, 2016.
Arnaldo Segarra is a lifelong organizer and well-known activist who has served in federal and local government positions. Raised in the Johnson Houses of East Harlem, Mr. Segarra began his political career at the East Harlem Tenants Council in the mid-60s. Mr. Segarra served in the Lindsay administration as Special Assistant for Puerto Rican Affairs. In 1972, his record of organizing led him to Washington, D.C., where he helped establish the first Office of Hispanic Affairs for the Democratic National Committee. Mr. Segarra served President Jimmy Carter as Director for Hispanic Affairs in the North East Region during his first presidential campaign and on the Carter transition team. Back in New York, Mr. Segarra worked under his longtime friend and former Mayor David Dinkins as Director of Mayoral Advance and as Special Assistant. He also served as Special Assistant to Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer, and Director of the Advance Team and Assistant with Community Relations for Comptroller William Thompson. Mr. Segarra attended Paul Smith’s College on a basketball scholarship, and has been recognized for his work with awards including “Distinguished Hispanic of NY”, one of the “80 NY Boricua Greats”, and the “Unsung Hero” Award in 2004. He was appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio on April 30, 2015. His term will expire on December 31, 2019.
Mazeda Akter Uddin
Mazeda Akter Uddin is the National Women’s Coordinator at ASAAL (Alliance of South Asian American Labor). An activist, humanitarian, and community leader, Ms. Uddin has worked to advance the rights of South Asian communities for over 29 years. She works frequently with local and state politicians to advocate for immigrants’ rights and expanded voting rights, including pre-registration of 16-17 year olds. She was also a leading advocate for the inclusion of Bengali translations on NYC ballots. Ms. Uddin has served on the boards of many civic and nonprofit organizations including MOAE (Mayor’s Office of Adult Education), SACSS (South Asian Council for Social Services), ShebaUSA, and ASAAL. Ms. Uddin is the founder and president of the South Asian Fund for Education, Scholarship, and Training (SAFEST), an organization that serves the South Asian community throughout NYC and elsewhere. Ms. Uddin was appointed by City Council Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito on March 25, 2015. Her term will expire on December 31, 2018.
Former Members of the Voter Assistance Advisory Committee
Anthony Perez Cassino was appointed by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg on April 13, 2011 and served until December 31, 2014.
Virginia Y. Wong was appointed by Comptroller John Liu on September 9, 2011 and served until December 31, 2014.
Jane C. Kalmus was appointed by City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn on January 3, 2011 and served until December 31, 2013.
Joseph C. Borelli was appointed by City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn on October 19, 2011 and served until February 28, 2012.