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Seattle residents will be able to vote using their smartphones in a board of supervisors election

Seattle residents voting in a county election will be the first to be able to cast a ballot on their smartphones

  • Residents in Seattle and King County will be able to vote on their phones
  • The new initiative is the first time a full election will support mobile ballots
  • The initiative is being funded by a non-profit focused on raising voter turnout
  • Rather than an app, residents will vote through a mobile browser page
  • They’ll certify their ballots by inputting their signature on the touchscreen 

Today, King Conservation District officials announced that some 1.2 million residents in the Seattle area will be able to use their smartphones to vote in an upcoming election, a first in American history. 

Eligible voters can access ballots for a board of supervisors election by using their name and birth date to log in to a customized web page designed for smartphone browsers  

The mobile web page will record all of their votes and let them submit their completed ballots starting today and going through February 11th.

For the first time in a full US election, voters in Seattle and surround King County area will be able to cast ballots through their phones in an upcoming board of supervisors election

For the first time in a full US election, voters in Seattle and surround King County area will be able to cast ballots through their phones in an upcoming board of supervisors election

The project is being funded by Tusk Philanthropies, a non-profit advocating for mobile voting as a way to help boost America’s low voter turnout numbers.

‘This is the most fundamentally transformative reform you can do in democracy,’ Tusk CEO Bradley Tusk told NPR.

Only around 55 percent of the eligible American population cast votes in the 2016 election, and in King Conservation District, only around one percent participate in local elections.

‘If you can use technology to exponentially increase turnout, then that will ultimately dictate how politicians behave on every issue,’ Tusk said.

The actual voting page was developed by Democracy Live, a tech company in Seattle that sells a variety of computer and tablet interfaces intended for elections.

In a video promoting an earlier product, called LiveBallot, the company says mobile voting can help people learn more about candidates and issues by having access to online clips of speeches and being able to see up-to-date donor lists, as well as read through comprehensive summaries.   

Security experts warn that digital voting through a phone could be susceptible to fraud as ballots could be intercepted or manipulated after voters submit them but before the county receives them. 

‘Until we have a total collapse of some election, I think this sort of thing is going to continue,’ Duncan Buell, an election technology specialist at the University of South Carolina, said. 

Instead of using an app, eligible King county residents will be able to log in to a custom website on their phone's web browser, register using their name and birth date, and then verify their ballots by drawing their signature on the touchscreen

Instead of using an app, eligible King county residents will be able to log in to a custom website on their phone’s web browser, register using their name and birth date, and then verify their ballots by drawing their signature on the touchscreen

The initiative is being funded by Tusk Philanthropies and CEO Bradley Tusk, who believe mobile voting could help solve the US's low voter turnout, which was just 55 percent in the 2016 election, and in King County board of supervisors elections has been as low as one percent

The initiative is being funded by Tusk Philanthropies and CEO Bradley Tusk, who believe mobile voting could help solve the US’s low voter turnout, which was just 55 percent in the 2016 election, and in King County board of supervisors elections has been as low as one percent

‘People want to believe that they can do everything on their phones.’

HOW WILL IT WORK?

Eligible voters in Seattle and surrounding areas in King County will be able to vote in the upcoming board of supervisors election through their smartphones.

Rather than download an app, voters will use their birth date and name to log in to a mobile web page. 

Once logged in they’ll be able to make all their candidate selections and then submit the ballot online. 

They’ll certify their ballots by drawing their signature on the phone’s touchscreen. 

The county will then compare their signature against older documents. 

Voters can also make all their selections on the phone, then print the ballot and mail it in.

According to Julie Wise, King County’s Director of Elections, says that she’s confident in the ballots security. 

‘There’s a lot of things we do online, banking, health records, that are also of concern for people that are secure,’ Wise told the Seattle Times

‘I’ve vetted this, technology experts in the region have vetted this to ensure that this is a safe, secure voting opportunity.’

 Voters who use the mobile option in Kings County will validate their ballots with by signing their signature on the phone’s touchscreen. 

County officials will then print out all the electronic ballots and match the signatures to other signatures stored in their records to verify their validity.

The website will also allow users to print their online ballots and send them in through the mail instead of submitting them online.

 

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