Mobile Voting and the Coronavirus Pandemic
In-person voting is no longer safe. To avoid community spread, the CDC has recommended people avoid large gatherings. Allowing widespread in-person voting puts voters, poll workers, and election officials at risk, and a number of states – Indiana, Connecticut, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, and Ohio – have already postponed their primaries because of concerns over transmission.
It’s critical we start planning for the 2020 November General Elections now. We need to allow our election officials adequate time to gather the resources and to provide the training necessary to administer the election effectively and mitigate public health risks.
We should employ all the tools we have to ensure people remain safe while exercising their right to vote. Mobile voting is part of the solution. We’ll need a combination of voting methods, including mobile voting, to account for challenges like mail disruptions, printing and postage costs, and paper ballot supply.
Mobile voting allows people to vote safely, securely, and privately from their homes, using their own smartphones and tablets.
Mobile voting is secure and has already been tested. Seven pilots have been conducted in five states in the past two years. All of them had clean audits. Two more pilots are scheduled to go live in the next few months in Delaware and West Virginia. Many of these pilots involve voters with disabilities and military serving overseas.
Mobile voting provides military serving abroad a realistic option for casting their ballots. Disruptions in international mail service could further disenfranchise servicemembers, whose voting options are already limited, if additional methods aren’t made available. Voter surveys have indicated that deployed military members greatly prefer mobile voting options.
Mobile voting is an accessible alternative. Vote-by-mail, while a part of the solution, doesn’t work for everyone, including some voters with disabilities.
Mobile voting isn’t far along enough yet to allow everyone to vote on their smartphones this year, but it can allow the most vulnerable to the virus to exercise their right to vote without risking their lives. Seniors and people with compromised immune systems won’t have to take unnecessary risks (e.g. going to a polling place to vote or going outside to mail a ballot) to vote.
Mobile voting accommodates people who’ve been displaced by the coronavirus pandemic. People who are quarantined or residing someplace other than where they receive their mailed ballot will still be able to vote from where they are.