STK - Man holding his mobile phone on the beach and voting online

Disabled voters who cannot get to the polls or fill out mail-in ballots have an expanded third option, thanks to Tusk Philanthropies.

On Wednesday, Tusk announced it would extend its mobile voting pilot for Utah County’s general election to include the disabled community.

This is the first time that mobile voting will be available for Utah County for those other than military and overseas voters.

“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.”

Tusk Philanthropies also announced that a third-party audit of the piloted app, Voatz, showed that votes cast were recorded and tabulated accurately. The voting app allows voters to send their ballots via email to the Utah County Elections Office. Because of the positive August pilot, Utah County has decided to extend the pilot for the general elections in November 2019 and expand the option to voters with disabilities.

“They would email us back their ballot and we could obviously see their name, and we would look at how they voted, then have someone manually fill in a ballot the way this person wanted to vote,” said Amelia Powers Gardner in a July 23 interview.

Besides the privacy issues, emailing a ballot also posed security questions, as the county had no way to verify the person who was registered to vote was the one who filled out the digital ballot.

Voatz verifies a person’s identity by comparing their face to their photo ID, as well as comparing the information on the ID with what’s already in the clerk’s voting records.

“It’s literally digitizing the exact same process a voter would experience at polls when they show photo ID,” Daniels said in a July interview.

The app is technically a remote ballot marking device, Daniels said. It allows someone to mark a ballot remotely and deliver it to the clerk securely, where it is encrypted and stored digitally until it’s time to count the votes. Then, the ballot is printed off in a form that can be read by the county’s scanners and counted along with the rest of the votes.

That way, Daniels said, the ballots are private, but can still be audited to ensure transparency and accountability.

Gardner and Daniels both see potential for the process to be easier not just for Utah County’s overseas military voters, but also for those serving overseas missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Daniels said Utah County has approached the church about making sure the app is available through filtering put in place while people are serving missions.

The November mobile voting is a continued collaboration between the Utah County Elections Division, Voatz, Tusk Philanthropies and the National Cybersecurity Center. Eligible voters will be able to participate in the upcoming election by opting in to vote electronically on their smartphones.

Voters will fill out an absentee ballot request, complete their identity authentication and verification on the Voatz application and submit their ballot for the election.

“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, in the press release.

Daily Herald reporter Genelle Pugmire can be contacted at gpugmire@heraldextra.com, (801) 344-2910, Twitter @gpugmire

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