STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

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.

Confirmed Cases: 42808

Reported Deaths: 664
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Multnomah9292163
Marion5929108
Washington583877
Umatilla337645
Clackamas317265
Lane241927
Malheur192738
Jackson17076
Deschutes113613
Yamhill100115
Linn81615
Polk65715
Jefferson6059
Morrow5457
Lincoln51713
Union4682
Benton4456
Klamath4173
Douglas3598
Wasco34816
Hood River2771
Columbia2691
Josephine2693
Coos2510
Clatsop2440
Baker1253
Crook1102
Tillamook700
Curry581
Wallowa462
Lake380
Harney340
Sherman190
Gilliam110
Grant110
Wheeler20
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 914888

Reported Deaths: 17460
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles3020777027
Riverside669931303
San Bernardino633671073
Orange589801454
San Diego55210877
Kern33928416
Fresno30969439
Sacramento25601491
Santa Clara24425392
Alameda23471462
San Joaquin21729489
Contra Costa18763242
Stanislaus17714398
Tulare17590288
Ventura14330165
Imperial12967336
San Francisco12189140
Monterey1141990
San Mateo11198159
Santa Barbara9827122
Merced9531155
Sonoma9494136
Kings826483
Solano744576
Marin7096129
Madera503774
Placer420757
San Luis Obispo417432
Yolo321959
Butte309552
Santa Cruz280825
Napa196616
Shasta195431
Sutter186512
San Benito144215
El Dorado13514
Yuba132310
Mendocino113621
Tehama8928
Lassen7661
Lake69816
Glenn6713
Nevada6238
Humboldt56810
Colusa5516
Calaveras34218
Amador33116
Tuolumne2754
Inyo23115
Siskiyou2050
Del Norte1801
Mono1802
Mariposa792
Plumas700
Modoc360
Trinity270
Sierra60
Alpine30
Unassigned00
Medford
Clear
46° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 38°
Feels Like: 46°
Brookings
Clear
63° wxIcon
Hi: 67° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 63°
Crater Lake
Clear
42° wxIcon
Hi: 67° Lo: 31°
Feels Like: 42°
Grants Pass
Clear
45° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: 45°
Klamath Falls
Clear
42° wxIcon
Hi: 68° Lo: 26°
Feels Like: 42°
Cold morning, warm afternoon
KDRV Radar
KDRV Fire Danger
KDRV Weather Cam

Community Events