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Healthy and General

Opinion | Mobile voting is not the answer to low turnout and

2 min read

In his June 5 Local Opinions essay, “Mobile voting in D.C. is the next step in a long march,” Martin Luther King III urged expanding the availability of mobile voting to all D.C. voters to combat low voter turnout, particularly in historically underrepresented communities.

Voting restrictions disproportionately affect already underserved communities. The Center for Scientific Evidence in Public Issues has long supported responsible uses of technology to facilitate voting and increase access to the ballot box for all voters. But the electronic return of ballots creates serious and currently unsolvable security vulnerabilities.

In an April 2020 letter to governors and state election officials, signed by about 80 prominent computer and cybersecurity experts, we outlined the risks of mobile voting. These systems are vulnerable to the same kinds of hacking tools that closed down schools in Baltimore County and caused massive fuel shortages along the Eastern Seaboard. The rise in cryptocurrency thefts shows that even blockchain-based mobile voting is rife with security risks. In 2020, the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, the FBI and the National Institute of Standards and Technology jointly concluded that electronic ballot return is a “high risk” and that “ensuring ballot integrity and maintaining voter privacy is difficult, if not impossible, at this time.”

Though we support seeking solutions to address low voter turnout, especially among underserved communities, current evidence underscores that voting by phone, tablet or computer is not safe or secure enough to ensure public confidence and trust in election results.

Michael D. Fernandez, Washington

The writer is founding director of the Center for Scientific Evidence in Public Issues at the American Association for the Advancement of Science.