Seattle to Test Mobile Voting on Smartphones

The Washington state county that includes Seattle will offer voters the option to cast their ballot on smartphones in the first election in the country in which every registered voter will be eligible to vote online.

The Washington state county that includes Seattle will offer voters the option to cast their ballot on smartphones in the first election in the country in which every registered voter will be eligible to vote online. Shutterstock

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STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Georgia governor announced anti-trafficking measures … Idaho may legalize hemp growing … Los Angeles City Council gets involved in MLB sign stealing scandal.

The Washington state county that includes Seattle will offer voters the option to cast their ballot on smartphones in the first election in the country in which every registered voter will be eligible to vote online. Online voting will be available for the King County Conservation District Board of Supervisors election, which normally draws a turnout rate from 1% to 3%. Though the election is small, King County Director of Elections Julie Wise said that it could serve as a pilot to eventually expand online voting access in the future. “This election could be a key step in moving toward electronic access and return for voters across the region. … There’s a lot of things we do online, banking, health records, that are also of concern for people that are secure. I’ve vetted this, technology experts in the region have vetted this to ensure that this is a safe, secure voting opportunity,” she said. The Conservation District, which is an environmental agency governed by elected volunteers, has been trying to get more community involvement for years, said Bea Covington, the agency’s executive director. “We have been looking for ways to increase awareness and increase voter participation for a number of years. We’re providing a really large beta test of this kind of ballot access,” Covington said. Some in the cybersecurity community, like Duncan Buell, a computer science professor at the University of South Carolina, are concerned. "There is a firm consensus in the cybersecurity community that mobile voting on a smartphone is a really stupid idea. I don't know that I have run across cybersecurity experts whose mortgages are not paid by a mobile-voting company who think it's a good idea,” he said. Bradley Tusk, the CEO of Tusk Philanthropies, the organization funding the pilot, said that concerns about security are overblown. "This is the most fundamentally transformative reform you can do in democracy … And if we have proven 30, 40, 50 times over that it is safe, it's a lot harder for those objections and arguments to fly,” he said. [Seattle Times; NPR]

HUMAN TRAFFICKING | Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp this week announced legislation targeting the problem of human trafficking in the state. The slate of proposals includes a provision making it easier for victims to restrict access to their criminal records and another enabling the state to permanently revoke the commercial driver’s license of a person convicted of trafficking. The legislation would also revoke a current state law that allows a legal guardian to have a sexual relationship with a foster child over the age of 16. Kemp said combating trafficking is a priority for him. “Traffickers use Atlanta as a hub, trading human life like it’s a commodity,” the governor said in his recent state of the state address. First Lady Marty Kemp, who leads a state commission on human trafficking, seemed confident the measures could pass the legislature. "Who could argue this issue? Who could vote against this? To help survivors hold bad actors accountable,” she said. [WABE; 11 Alive]

HEMP FARMING | The Idaho legislature is considering a bill that would legalize growing hemp in the state. The legislation would allow Idaho farmers to grow and sell hemp products that contain 0.3% or less of THC, the element of marijuana that produces a high. "It gives (farmers) an option to try a different product if they so desire. I think it's important we give them those opportunities since everybody else is making hay, more or less, with hemp,” said state Rep. Dorothy Moon, the Republican who introduced the bill. Backers of the legislation say that it would allow farmers to compete in the CBD industry, which has grown exponentially in the past few years. Idaho considered a similar bill last year, but it did not pass due to concerns that legalizing hemp would make it more difficult to enforce the state’s marijuana laws, as the two plants are visually identical and only differ in their percentage of THC. Prosecutor Grant Loebs, speaking on behalf of the Idaho Prosecuting Attorneys Association, said that they don’t want to see a hemp bill become an “under-the-table marijuana bill.” “If there is a desire to allow legitimate farmers and legitimate businessmen to engage in the production and sale of hemp, and that’s what the goal of the legislation is, I see no reason why there can’t be legislation designed to meet that goal,” Loebs said. [Associated Press; KTVB]

SIGN STEALING | The Los Angeles City Council passed a resolution asking Major League Baseball to award the Dodgers the 2017 and 2018 World Series titles. The move follows an investigation into the 2017 champion Houston Astros, who are accused of using cameras to steal signs for plays and pitches during games and the 2018 champion Red Sox, which are under investigation for using similar cheating tactics. The Dodgers lost in the World Series in both years. The measure was brought by council members Gil Cedillo and Paul Koretz, who said it was a “matter of equity and justice” to recognize the team. "Who was the best team in 2017? Who was the best team in 2018? It was the Dodgers. They got beat by teams that were cheating. We know that the Astros cheated, and they were advantaged by it,” the two said in a statement. [NBC News; Los Angeles Times]

MURAL CONTROVERSY | The newly elected mayor of Oak Island, North Carolina, is facing criticism from some constituents about a mural painted on the side of his house. Mayor Ken Thomas posted a picture of the mural, which features a scantily clad mermaid, on Facebook and defended the image. “I had this done long before I intended to run for office and while I’m sorry it may offend some people. Art is intended to be beautiful and thought provoking,” he said. Some constituents said that the art is sexist and inappropriate for a city leader to display. “It will incite the people who did not vote for you and cause the ones who did to defend and argue with the others. Why would you post something that very obviously will cause a divisive argument?” one constituent wrote. Others noted that Thomas campaigned on a platform of transparency, and in defending a painting of a mermaid wearing next to nothing, he was fulfilling that promise. “All I can say is campaign promise made, campaign promise kept. This painting is very ‘transparent’ and no ‘cover up’ here,” another constituent wrote. [Raleigh News & Observer]

Emma Coleman is the assistant editor for Route Fifty.

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