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Two Oregon counties offer vote-by-mobile to overseas voters

Jackson County Clerk Christine Walker expressed confidence in the system and said it will help ensure that the votes of those overseas will be counted.

Posted: Oct 16, 2019 9:53 AM
Updated: Oct 16, 2019 9:57 AM

By ANDREW SELSKY Associated Press

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Two Oregon counties are offering the opportunity for U.S. military members, their dependents and others living overseas to vote in special elections this November with smartphones, officials announced Wednesday.

While some technology experts have warned that such systems could be insecure, the two counties have already advised hundreds of registered voters living overseas about the option to cast ballots using blockchain-based mobile voting. Oregon residents normally vote by mail.

Jackson County Clerk Christine Walker expressed confidence in the system and said it will help ensure that the votes of those overseas will be counted. She noted that overseas mail systems can be unreliable and that she was very worried that Washington's threats to pull the United States from the United Nations' postal agency would prevent voters overseas from casting ballots.

"We need to make sure that our military and overseas voters have the not only ability to vote, but they can easily access their ballots in a safe manner," Walker said in a telephone interview Tuesday. "There was a potential crisis going on."

The disruption to international mail was averted when the United States reached a compromise in September that enabled it to remain in the Universal Postal Union, the U.N. agency that coordinates postal policies among its 192 member countries.

Walker predicted the mobile pilot program that her county will be trying out in a Nov. 5 special election will offer a glimpse of what the future holds.

"My grandkids, great grandkids, great-great grandkids, aren't going to want anything to do with a polling place, let alone a paper ballot," Walker said. "Their expectation is that they have it easily accessible on one of their devices."

The Oregon secretary of state's office, which oversees elections in the state, has endorsed the pilot project.

Deputy Secretary of State Rich Vial said in a statement that "by enabling these voters to cast a ballot using their mobile device ... we can make it easier, and at the same time more secure, for them to cast a ballot from wherever they are in the world."

Blockchain is a digital public ledger that can be shared and used by a large, decentralized network, making it theoretically more resistant to tampering.

Jackson County in southern Oregon has notified almost 400 voters overseas about the pilot project. Umatilla County in northern Oregon is also participating.

"This is very, very new to me," said Kim Lindell, elections manager of Umatilla County. "I'm not sure how well received it will be."

The county has sent 63 notices to overseas voters that they can vote using the new system, Lindell said.

"It's said to be very secure, and I think that our overseas people will benefit from it if they decide to give it a try," Lindell said.

The effort is a collaboration between the two county elections offices; Voatz, a Boston-based company providing the mobile elections platform; Tusk Philanthropies and the National Cybersecurity Center.

Voters using the system fill out absentee ballot requests, complete identity authentication and verification on the Voatz application, and submit their ballots.

"Jackson and Umatilla Counties just made history as the first in Oregon to give voters the ability to vote in the same way they conduct most of their other business — on their phones," said Bradley Tusk, founder and CEO of Tusk Philanthropies.

The two counties are the fourth and fifth jurisdictions nationwide to partner with Tusk Philanthropies in its efforts to expand mobile voting. Previously, Tusk Philanthropies partnered with West Virginia; the city of Denver and Denver County; and Utah County, Utah.

West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner called it a success when it was used in the 2018 election by 144 registered votes from 21 counties who cast ballots from 31 countries.

Warner plans to offer it again in 2020. Warner, a U.S. Army veteran, said he could not vote when he was deployed in 2012 and 2014 because of unreliable mail service and alternative transmission methods.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 155315

Reported Deaths: 2208
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah31853528
Washington21170212
Marion18416285
Clackamas13357175
Lane10224126
Jackson8377112
Umatilla765182
Deschutes594659
Yamhill377364
Linn358656
Malheur335058
Polk305342
Klamath278955
Douglas246354
Josephine233750
Benton233516
Jefferson195528
Coos148219
Union128419
Columbia126121
Wasco122126
Lincoln113120
Hood River106829
Morrow104714
Clatsop7756
Crook77518
Baker6567
Curry4266
Tillamook4142
Lake3756
Harney2736
Grant2221
Wallowa1424
Gilliam531
Sherman530
Wheeler221
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 3563578

Reported Deaths: 51953
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles119089421328
Riverside2894503767
San Bernardino2862912816
Orange2610223904
San Diego2596413271
Santa Clara1104221777
Kern102627826
Fresno952021443
Sacramento931801472
Alameda804961241
Ventura77534844
San Joaquin665691101
Contra Costa62164674
Stanislaus56024946
Tulare47784758
Monterey42138328
San Mateo38922515
San Francisco34213410
Santa Barbara31763409
Solano30024164
Merced28915397
Sonoma28063298
Imperial26888591
Kings21951218
Placer19763232
San Luis Obispo19612227
Madera15436209
Santa Cruz14588183
Marin13136197
Yolo12816185
Shasta10972174
Butte10941160
El Dorado9095100
Napa901469
Sutter884597
San Benito575959
Yuba573336
Lassen560119
Tehama508152
Nevada395274
Tuolumne394659
Mendocino379643
Amador345741
Humboldt318033
Lake315341
Glenn222023
Colusa212813
Calaveras190547
Siskiyou174014
Inyo128737
Mono12114
Del Norte9875
Plumas6536
Modoc4524
Mariposa3957
Trinity3675
Sierra990
Alpine810
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