Pierce County, Washington, Completes Successful Mobile Voting Pilot

In the November 2019 General Election, Pierce County, Washington successfully piloted an expansion of mobile voting to its military and overseas voters. These efforts were in support of the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) and the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act.

The imminent withdrawal from the Postal Union created an imperative. Knowing that the biggest barrier for military voters is the transit time to receive and return a ballot, we weren’t willing to risk additional delays,” said Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson.

Voatz, a mobile elections platform, was used in the pilot. Eligible registered voters received, marked, verified and submitted their ballots using their personal Apple or Android smartphones. Votes were submitted from 28 countries over the Internet; blockchain technology was used to secure the aggregate vote.

Voatz uses blockchain technology to store encrypted voting data distributed across a network of 32 U.S. based cloud servers. The voting data is anonymized with an unidentifiable ID number for each ballot and receipt. The process disaggregates any information that could be used to trace its source and votes cast are tamper-proof.

Pierce County’s UOCAVA voters are normally permitted to return their ballots by mail, fax, or email attachment. The pilot provided UOCAVA voters a fourth option: the Voatz mobile app. Without any prompting, voters used the mobile voting option at a higher rate than fax or email.  In the November 2019 General Election, 103 UOCAVA voters used FAX or email and 163 voters used the mobile voting option. Mail, as usual, was the primary method of ballot returns (2,481 ballots returned by postal service).

Facsimile and email alternatives are substandard, according to Anderson. Ballots returned by facsimile are often missing important pages and aren’t machine-readable. Ballots and declarations returned as email attachments present significant cybersecurity risks and arrive in a wide-variety of formats ranging from pictures of ballots lying on the floor to pixelated low resolution images.

Anderson went on to say, “If we want every UOCAVA ballot to be counted accurately and privately, and we want to mitigate the risks of mail disruption, we need a different transmission solution. A secure mobile app that uses encryption to transmit voter-verified ballots is long overdue and desperately needed in an age of global conflict, severe weather events, and international trade disputes.

Pierce County had an excellent experience with the Voatz pilot. We intend to continue offering mobile voting as an option for overseas voters. Pierce County sees this as a safe and secure alternative for UOCAVA voters.  We also see future potential for voters with disabilities– especially those who are blind or have difficulty handling paper and pens.  A secure mobile voting app could be an important accommodation,” said Anderson.

Voatz CEO and Co-Founder Nimit Sawhney was pleased with the pilot. “We’ve been thrilled to partner with Pierce County to extend our mobile voting platform to Pierce’s voters. We look forward to the future of this technology, which we hope can continue to be part of the movement of making our elections as equipped, ready and resilient for the future,” said Mr. Sawhney.

The November 2019 pilot received financial assistance from the National Cybersecurity Center, supported by Tusk Philanthropies.

Read the full article here (courtesy of Suburban Times).