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Seattle Smartphone Users Take Electronic Balloting To a Level Up

As it became clear that a technical mishap would delay results from the Iowa caucuses last week, Sheila Nix raced to prepare a chart illustrating how the glitch was isolated. Nix is president of Tusk Philanthropies, an organization that’s working to boost turnout through mobile-voting projects and was not involved in the Iowa caucuses. The chart Nix’s team created, posted on the King Conservation District’s website, noted that the technology used in Iowa, unlike Tusk’s partners, was ‘untested, and created in secrecy,’ and that Iowa didn’t have a backup plan in the event there was a problem. But she said she also recognizes that the fiasco in Iowa was a setback for everyone working on digital elections.

The failure in the first week of February 2020 of an app meant to help tally the results of Iowa’s caucuses, leading to days of partial and unreliable results, prompted concerns. On Sunday 9th February, the Iowa Democratic Party said that Pete Buttigieg would probably receive 14 delegates to the national presidential nominating convention, while Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) would receive 12 even though they could not confirm final results. Despite the mess in Iowa, mobile voting has its supporters. Earlier this month, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) signed a bill that would allow people with physical disabilities to use mobile-voting technology.

Mobile-voting proponents say the technology will boost election participation by making balloting available anywhere voters have phones. It could be helpful for boosting turnout in small elections, like the one in the Seattle area, Nix said. Moreover, it could help with the current primary system, which often appeals to voters on the political extremes because they tend to be the most engaged in the process. Democracy Live’s technology has been used without issue in roughly 1,000 elections since 2010. Voters visit an election website, which runs on data centers run by Amazon Web Services that use the same security certifications as federal agencies using the technology. After making their selections, voters save their ballots as a PDF file and digitally sign it. Or they can print it and physically sign it. In the past, voters have had to mail in that ballot, though overseas military could often send it as an email attachment.