Residents of the greater Seattle area will now be able to use their cellphones to vote in an upcoming election, a move that signals a possible transformation in the way elections will be conducted in America.
Those living in the King Conservation District will be able to use their phones to access a voting website and cast their vote anytime between Wednesday and February 11.
“KCD is piloting a new technology this year to expand voting access to our election,” the district’s website states.
“We have partnered with King County Elections, Democracy Live, and Tusk Philanthropies to ensure an accessible election for all registered voters in our service area.”
The new program is being implemented for a board of supervisors election in the King Conservation District, a race that only draws about a 1 percent turnout.
Voters can cast their ballots through the website by simply entering their name and date of birth, according to NPR.
Before being submitted, a ballot must be electronically signed by the person casting it.
The King Conservation District not only allows the online ballots but also mail-in forms, a dropbox and traditional in-person voting.
This move is sure to boost voter participation, but there’s no guarantee this new technological leap will give elections any more security than old-fashioned paper ballots.
“There is a firm consensus in the cybersecurity community that mobile voting on a smartphone is a really stupid idea,” computer science professor Duncan Buell told NPR.
“I don’t know that I have run across cybersecurity experts whose mortgages are not paid by a mobile-voting company who think it’s a good ide,” he said.
Electronically submitted votes will be printed out and counted in the same manner as physical ballots, but this still leaves the votes seemingly susceptible to attack from bad actors before they are tallied.
It’s unclear what security measures the King Conservation District will be implementing to ensure a fair election.
Although a few other places in the United States have flirted with the idea of online voting, it appears to have been only for those who are physically unable to make it to a polling center.
The Seattle-area option is now open to all eligible voters, a stark difference from the small scale access programs running in some locations.
Whether this idea fails or catches steam and sweeps the nation is yet to be seen. With most people now owning a cellphone, it seems like only a matter of time before more of these programs are considered.
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