Biometric mobile voting gains traction in U.S., includes disabled community

Biometric mobile voting gains traction in U.S., includes disabled community

As U.S. elections next year are rapidly approaching, Jackson and Umatilla Counties in Oregon have rolled out biometric and blockchain-based mobile voting systems that would enable eligible U.S. citizens to vote on their smartphones if abroad during the election, writes GeekWire.

The counties signed a partnership with mobile platform Voatz and nonprofit Tusk Philanthropies to develop a tool that uses blockchain and facial recognition to let voters securely cast ballots from their phones. Last year, a similar voting app was launched in West Virginia by Tusk Philanthropies, and counties in Colorado and Utah have also tested mobile voting.

Initially developed for military and overseas personnel, Tusk announced Voatz would include features for the disabled community in Utah to make voting more accessible, according to the Daily Herald.

“This is the first election where we are expanding mobile voting for the disability community and providing them the option to vote from their mobile device,” said Bradley Tusk, founder and CEO of Tusk Philanthropies in the press release. “We are making voting accessible to new communities, increasing voter turnout, conducting new pilots and auditing each election to ensure that votes cast over the blockchain are recorded accurately.”

“We commend election officials, like those in Utah County, who are providing options to voters with diverse needs with this exciting pilot project. We regularly hear from voters with disabilities who need accommodations in order to vote privately and independently, that they value their civic right and duty to vote,” said Sherri Newton, Voting Advocate at the Disability Law Center.

During the 2018 midterm elections, West Virginia Secretary of State Warner pointed out to the U.S. Attorney’s office that third-parties tried to gain unauthorized access to the mobile voting system during the pilot rollout. The vendor confirmed an illegal attempt to access the system, however Warner assured security protocols worked and there was no data breach. Audits also showed positive results and no discrepancies.

In June, Voatz announced it raised $7 million in a Series A funding round to increase accessibility and footprint of its voting app.

If the test proves successful, the system will be rolled out in other counties.

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