Mobile voting won’t be a thing in D.C. anytime soon. A crucial member of the D.C. Council says he won’t move forward with a bill to expand voting by phone in the District, dealing a blow to an effort to expand mobile voting across the country. The course reversal is a victory for election security advocates who have long argued that the technology isn’t ready for a widespread rollout, even as proponents argue it would be an effective way to boost voter turnout and accessibility. The D.C. bill had support from eight members of the 13-person Council and groups like the D.C. branch of the NAACP. But council member Charles Allen’s (D-Ward 6) opinion of the bill was especially important for its future because he chairs a committee that the bill would have to advance through.
District of Columbia: New legislation could bring mobile voting but experts warn that the technology isn’t ready | Lauren Lumpkin/The Washington Post
New proposed legislation could bring mobile voting to the District, a measure that supporters say would enfranchise more eligible voters throughout the city. Meanwhile, some experts warn that the type of technology needed to support mobile voting on such a large scale isn’t ready and could further erode the public’s trust in elections. In December, several groups signed a letter to District officials urging them “not to adopt, test or develop internet voting of any kind.” … “The appeal is obvious. We all can agree that if there’s a safe way to make it as easy as possible for eligible voters to vote, we should do it. People very much want mobile voting to be that,” said Mark Lindeman, a director at Verified Voting, which focuses on election technology. “But we haven’t figured out a way to do it safely and verifiably.” Part of the problem stems from the way the Internet was created, Lindeman said. “The Internet still is, foundationally, what is was built to be by academics going back to the 1970s, and academics weren’t really thinking of building a system that was private and secure,” Lindeman said. Their priority, instead, was sharing information as quickly as possible. During an age in which millions of Americans bank and shop online, casting votes on the Internet may seem safe enough for some. But J. Alex Halderman, a University of Michigan professor and electronic voting expert, said standards for voting should be higher. “In banking, a certain amount of fraud is just accepted as the cost of doing business. But that’s just not how we view elections. We want there to be no fraud in elections,” Halderman said. “Frankly, it’s phenomenally retrograde to consider Internet voting in the present moment because we know sophisticated attackers have our election systems in their sights.”