Voters in the King Conservation District, which includes 1.2 million people in the Greater Seattle area, will soon be able to vote via smartphone in a first for U.S. elections. One professor specializing in election technology called the entire concept of voting via smartphone “a very stupid idea.”
NPR reports that the King Conservation District, a state environmental district that encompasses Seattle and 30 other cities, will detail a new plan this week which will allow voters in the Greater Seattle area to vote via their smartphones. This means a total of around 1.2 million eligible voters can place their votes on an election over the Internet.
Bradley Tusk, the founder and CEO of Tusk Philanthropies, a nonprofit group that aims to expand mobile voting and is funding the King County pilot program stated: “This is the most fundamentally transformative reform you can do in democracy.”
NPR notes that the move likely to cause much debate as those that worry about election security push back at those attempting to increase voting access. NPR notes that the United States lags behind most developed democracies in terms of election turnout rate, and local elections lag far behind November presidential elections.
The election of the board of supervisors in the King Conservation District in past years has had a voter turnout rate of less than 1 percent of the eligible population. Turk has argued that low turnout rates force politicians to craft positions that represent the entire population leading to dysfunction in government.
“If you can use technology to exponentially increase turnout, then that will ultimately dictate how politicians behave on every issue,” he said. But already many have pointed out major flaws in mobile voting.
Duncan Buell, a computer science professor at the University of South Carolina who specializes in election technology, commented on the initiative stating: “There is a firm consensus in the cybersecurity community that mobile voting on a smartphone is a really stupid idea. I don’t know that I have run across cybersecurity experts whose mortgages are not paid by a mobile-voting company who thinks it’s a good idea.”
Joseph Lorenzo Hall, the former chief technologist at the Center for Democracy and Technology, stated in an interview with NPR last year: “If you’re doing phone voting or Internet voting, it’s pretty much ‘garbage in, garbage out.’ You don’t really know what you’re getting in or what’s coming out the other side.”