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King County district will test out voting on smartphones

King County voters will soon be able to vote on their smartphones. (Unsplash)

A King County district will soon make history, unveiling a system that will allow voters to cast their ballots using a smart phone.

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According to a report from NPR, the King Conservation District — an environmental agency run by the state spread across Seattle and over 30 other cities — will test out the system for its Board Supervisor election. Ballot access begins Wednesday, Jan. 22, and extends through its scheduled election day on Feb. 11.

The KCD — partnering with nonprofit Tusk Philanthropies — hopes to “ensure an accessible election for all registered voters” in its service area, with technology that’s never before been used in a U.S. election.

“This is the most fundamentally transformative reform you can do in democracy,” Tusk Philanthropies CEO Bradley Tusk told NPR.

KCD and Tusk Philanthropies are providing more details on the new system in a Wednesday press conference.

This comes as the latest effort in the region to boost voter turnout.

King County and Washington state approved a measure to use prepaid ballot postage for all elections in early 2018. The result saw an almost 20 percent increase in turnout between 2014’s midterm election and 2018. That was followed in November 2019 by the highest voter turnout in an off-year election the state has seen in half a decade.

King County sees unprecedented voter turnout for 2019 primary

For mobile voting, the scale is much smaller (at least for now), limited to the KCD’s vote on a new Board Supervisor. That could potentially provide a lower-stakes proving ground for the technology’s viability in a larger election.

That being so, many experts agree that paper ballots are far more secure, with Washington state doubling down on security measures to keep voting off of internet-connected devices.

Results from each of the state’s 39 counties are tabulated from paper ballots, and then transferred to an air-gapped machine (i.e. a computer not connected to the internet). The results are then transferred to a flash drive, which is plugged into an internet-enabled computer to transmit the final results.

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