King County district to use one-of-a-kind smartphone voting platform for third straight year

Jan 6, 2022, 5:41 AM
King Conservation District, electronic voting, smartphone voting...
A King Conservation District mailer sent out to eligible voters. (MyNorthwest photo)
(MyNorthwest photo)

For the third straight year, the King Conservation District (KCD) will be running its annual elections through a smartphone voting platform.

‘The difference is staggering’: King County district forges ahead on smartphone voting

The KCD operates as an environmental agency run by the state, with a board of supervisors voted on by all of King County, excepting residents of Enumclaw, Federal Way, Milton, Pacific, and Skykomish.

Because of an archaic law that requires KCD to hold its board of supervisors election at the start of each year rather than in November, it has long struggled to encourage voter turnout using standard mail-in ballots. In 2019 — the last year KCD primarily used paper ballots — website malfunctions and a typo on ballots that listed an incorrect end-date for the election saw just 3,448 out of over 1.2 million eligible voters request and then send in a ballot.

Then, in 2020, KCD pioneered a first-of-its-kind mobile voting platform, doubling its turnout to over 6,200 voters. It continued down that path in 2021, setting a record for turnout with over 9,500 total votes cast.

KCD will again use mobile voting in 2022. The main goal revolves around increasing accessibility, particularly while KCD’s elections continue to take place in the first quarter of each new year. That said, it is also “committed to pursuing election reform with the Washington State Legislature” in hopes of eventually moving it to the November ballot.

Eligible voters will soon begin receiving mailers from KCD, each with a QR code that directs people to the voting portal. Voters simply need to input their name and birth date, select their preferred candidate, and then sign their ballot.

How Washington is fighting back against attempts to hack ballots

Once the vote is cast, King County Elections physically prints it out, verifies the signature, transfers the tabulation to an air-gapped machine, like it would with a normal paper ballot, and then finally, uploads that to a flash drive used to transmit the final results.

“This is really a paper-based document transmission system,” Democracy Live President Bryan Finney told MyNorthwest in 2021. “At the end of the day, there’s going to be a paper ballot involved. It’s simply storing a document — in this case that document happens to be a ballot — in a federally approved cloud environment.”

Democracy Live works with thousands of jurisdictions across the country, supporting 21 states, but focuses mainly on providing support for secure electronic balloting portals for men and women fighting overseas, as well as the blind and disabled community.

For more details on KCD’s 2022 election head to this link.

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King County district to use one-of-a-kind smartphone voting platform for third straight year