Oregon counties test mobile voting, allowing overseas citizens to cast ballots using smartphones

Voatz is a Boston-based company that makes a mobile voting platform. (Voatz Image)

Two counties in Oregon are piloting mobile voting in the upcoming special elections in November. It’s the latest in a series of tests that advocates for blockchain-based mobile voting hope will turn into a broader rollout down the road.

Jackson and Umatilla Counties are partnering with mobile elections platform Voatz and the nonprofit Tusk Philanthropies to test mobile voting for active-duty members of the military, their dependents, and overseas voters.

The tool allows eligible voters to cast their ballots using their smartphones. Tusk says its product is secure thanks to blockchain and facial recognition technology. But some experts are skeptical about blockchain voting’s security.

Last year, Tusk launched mobile voting in West Virginia. The organization says it was the first time a state has used a blockchain-based mobile voting system in a federal election. Counties in Colorado and Utah have since used the technology.

The National Cybersecurity Center, a nonprofit based in Colorado, is also helping with the mobile voting rollout.

“Ultimately, giving everyone the opportunity to use mobile voting means we can dramatically expand turnout and loosen the grip on power by special interests and extreme ideologues on both sides,” said Bradley Tusk, the venture capitalist and founder of Tusk Philanthropies.

Voatz is a private startup out of Boston that has raised $2.2 million in funding. The Voatz platform uses biometric screening to verify a voter’s identity before they cast their ballot. Voatz says it has done 40 mobile voting pilots in federal, state, and local elections. In one election, more than 15,000 votes were cast using the technology.

In Oregon, mobile voting opened up on Sept. 20 and will continue through Election Day, Nov. 5, at 8 p.m.

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