We started the Mobile Voting Project in 2018 with a simple mission: to fix democracy by making it possible for more people to vote. Since then, we’ve run 18 mobile voting pilots and the 2020 presidential election was the first presidential election that citizens were given the option to cast their vote through mobile and other electronic devices – and it worked.
The “For the People Act” presents a historic opportunity for this country to expand the ease and accessibility of voting, but at such a critical juncture in our country’s history we cannot take two steps forward and one step back. S. 1 is designed to expand voting options, but it also removes current options available to voters who face inherent barriers like electronic return.
The language in Sec. 1101, 1502, and 1706 that effectively bars electronic return will halt the incredible progress that’s been made over the past few years making elections more resilient and accessible for deployed military and overseas citizens, voters with disabilities and voters in emergencies.
These sections are fundamentally misaligned with the core vision of S. 1. Paper only mandates actually work against the ultimate goal of expanding voting rights and the bill as written would effectively disenfranchise millions of eligible voters. Late arriving ballots are the number one reason military and overseas votes are tossed and electronic return is the only way to ensure all voters, regardless of disability, can vote independently and privately whether in person or by mail as required by the Voting Rights Act, Americans with Disability Act, and Help America Vote Act.
If lawmakers in Washington are serious about expanding voting rights, increasing access to the ballot, and giving Americans a greater voice in government, they need to ensure that includes options for all Americans – not just those who are able to access and mark a paper ballot.
That starts with striking the language in Sec. 1101, 1502, and 1706 that effectively bars electronic return and expanding electronic return as an option to voters in those categories in all federal elections in 50 states, D.C. and territories. It’s no secret that changes are coming in the way people think about– and participate in—voting. To prepare, lawmakers should also direct federal agencies, led by CISA and EAC, to study and develop standards and a certification process for digital remote voting systems by 2024.
In order to have a democracy that reflects every individual’s vote, all secure forms of voting need to be an option for our citizens to increase access. This includes mail-in ballots, in-person voting and a secure mobile option.
Faced with a pandemic, raging wildfires and a global postal shortage, the 2020 election cycle made clear that we need multiple options to vote to enfranchise everyone. We cannot let lawmakers forget the lessons of 2020, or the voters who face inherent barriers to voting.