Mobile voting: how it works and what voters in D.C. think about it

Washington-DC

WASHINGTON (WDVM) — A poll released by Hart Research and Tusk Philanthropies on Thursday, December 2, shows that voters in the District of Columbia strongly support the option to vote on their phone or tablet.

The poll was conducted among 500 District voters who are likely to vote in 2022 over the course of a few days at the beginning of November.

Jocelyn Bucaro, Director of the Mobile Voting Project with Tusk Philanthropies, said, “One of the best ways to increase participation in all elections is to add mobile voting as an option.”

While adding new options for voters is not a new concept, mobile voting is. Bucaro and her team said this option will make voting even more accessible. Additionally, she pointed to the increase in voter turnout in 2020 that widespread mail-in ballots created.

“D.C. has proven in the last year that when you add voting options and make voting easier, more voters will participate. This is the next step in that voting evolution,” Bucaro said.

The mobile voting program will be accessible for anyone with a phone or tablet. There will be an app that the voter will download, and the person will provide personal information that will be cross-referenced with voting eligibility. Then, the person will fill out a signature verification form, much like the form that is sent with mail-in ballots. Finally, the person will be sent an encrypted ballot, will mark that ballot and then send it back to the Board of Elections.

Bucaro explained, “Election officials will perform signature verification the same way they do for every absentee or mail-in ballot. Once ballots are verified and accepted, they are decrypted, printed on paper ballots and then scanned and tabulated the same way all other ballots are.”

Additionally, people will be able to track that their ballot made it to the B.O.E. and that their vote was cast as sent. While election security has remained a hot topic nationwide, the poll showed that voter worries went away as they learned about the measures taken with this system.

The Managing Director of Tusk Strategies, Yvette Buckner, said, “When people learned more about the options, safety and security that we presented in the poll, the number (of people supportive of mobile voting) jumped up.”

The poll showed that 58% of all respondents approved of mobile voting with a brief description of the system, but that number jumped to 70% once respondents were presented with all of the information.

Since 2018, Tusk Philanthropies has piloted the mobile voting program in over 20 elections within seven states. Bucaro said it typically costs about $100,000 to $150,000 to implement the system the first election and decreases cost in the elections to follow. When asked who pays for this, she said Tusk Philanthropies offers grants for election officials, but that if a Board of Elections did not get a grant or receive the full costs in grants, it would be up to taxpayers.

The organization plans to meet with the Board of Elections’ new Chairman at the beginning of 2022.

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