Voatz is once again highlighting the advantages of mobile voting in a new interview published on the company blog. In the interview, Utah County clerk Amelia Powers-Gardner also discusses some of the potential pitfalls of mail-in voting ahead of a contentious national election that will take place during a pandemic.
Utah County has already conducted multiple elections with Voatz. Military members and overseas voters were allowed to use the app to cast ballots in a municipal primary election last August, and the program was then expanded to the disabled community for the general election in November after that initial success.
According to Powers-Gardner, the county has received nothing but positive feedback from people who have used the platform. She argued that mobile voting has several advantages over physical mail, which is currently being put forth as a way to reduce the number of people at polling stations as COVID-19 continues to spread. While Utah County is a vote-by-mail jurisdiction, secure mail balloting is a massive logistical undertaking, and getting it done on short notice simply may not be feasible in a Presidential election year.
“I have about 300,000 registered voters in my county, and we mail every single one of them a ballot, every election. I think vote by mail is great,” said Powers-Gardner. “But what a lot of people don’t realize is that we had to put in our order for our envelopes for vote by mail in October. We had to solidify our schedule with the print vendors in December. We had to finalize those schedules in January. We’re four months past that right now.”
Powers-Gardner also raised accessibility concerns. For people with severe mobility issues, filling in and mailing a paper ballot can still be prohibitively difficult, especially when compared to the simplicity of an app on a smartphone or a tablet.
“If someone’s in a hospital bed, they’re not at home getting their mail, so we can’t mail them a ballot. Also, it might be hard to verify their identity,” added Powers-Gardner. “If they have a smartphone that has a thumbprint on it, then their phone can verify their identity for us.”
Finally, Powers-Gardner pointed out that mobile devices are more sanitary than a paper ballot that will be handled by several people over the course of its journey. As it stands, many polling stations are located at elementary schools, so an in-person election could potentially expose children, voters, and poll workers to the virus.