Seattle-area voters are about to get a first-in-the-nation opportunity—taking part in an election conducted entirely by digital votes.
The King County Conservation District (KCD), a public agency that works on a range of land management issues, is currently electing a new board supervisor position and the election is taking place entirely on a digital platform called the Mobile Voting Project. All of the 1.2 million people eligible to vote in King County can vote in this election from the convenience of their cell phone (or other internet-connected devices like a library computer).
KCD’s election starts today, Jan. 22, and runs through 8 p.m. on Feb. 11. Click here to register and cast your vote.
Nine other elections across the country have used the technology but this is the first time all eligible voters in an election have access to the mobile platform. Previously, this digital platform has only been used for specific voters within larger elections, like overseas voters, military voters, and voters with disabilities.
KCD’s use of the project is a collaboration with Tusk Philanthropies, which created the application, Democracy Live, the National Cybersecurity Center, and King County Elections.
Bradley Tusk, the CEO and founder of Tusk Philanthropies, said the use of the platform was “historic.”
“It’s the biggest innovation in democracy in years and we are extremely grateful to King Conservation District and King County Elections for making it happen,” Tusk said in a press release.
This mobile voting app would be noteworthy for any election, but it’s particularly noteworthy for KCD, which has received dismal turnout in recent elections. Thanks to state law, all 29 of the state’s conservation districts must conduct their elections in the first quarter of the year—outside of normal voting times—and KCD has struggled to run its own elections, according to exclusive reporting in The Stranger.
When I tried to get KCD to give me information about their election last March, it took a week for anyone at the public agency to respond to my questions, an incredible lag time given the fact that this taxpayer-funded agency was in the midst of an election. Unsurprisingly, less than 4,000 votes were cast in their last election, even though their electorate includes 1.2 million eligible voters.
Conservation districts across the state have struggled to conduct their own elections, according to a report from the League of Women Voters. Peter Callaghan, writing for the Tacoma News Tribune in 2005, said “Nearly everything in the law governing these [conservation district] elections makes participation difficult and unlikely."
With this unprecedented commitment to digital voting, it looks like KCD just flipped the script and made nearly everything about voting in their election effortless and likely.