Washington, D.C. – Today, Ward 2 Councilmember Brooke Pinto introduced the Mobile Voting Options for Turnout Equity Amendment Act of 2022 (the “Mobile VOTE Act”.) As introduced, this legislation would make voting more accessible by allowing District voters to securely cast digital absentee ballots from a smartphone, tablet, or a computer. The bill would require the District of Columbia Board of Elections (“BOE”) to establish a secure system that safeguards voter information and election integrity. This legislation was co-introduced by Chairman Phil Mendelson and Councilmembers Trayon White, Sr., Christina Henderson, Brianne K. Nadeau, Anita Bonds, Robert C. White, Jr., and Vincent C. Gray.
“Our city and nation have well established values that voting rights are civil rights; enfranchising District residents by making voting easy and accessible for all is fundamentally important in advancing those values,” said Councilmember Pinto. “Despite District efforts to increase voting access, many residents continue to face voting barriers.”
During every election, hundreds of thousands of eligible voters in the District do not cast a ballot. With the exception of the historic2020 election, turnout has declined in previous years, particularly in critical District-wide races. Less than 19% of DC registered voters cast ballots in the2018 primary election and only 46% voted in the general election. Turnout in2020 was higher but still remarkably low, with only 28% of registered voters casting ballots in the primary election and 67% in the general election. “Mobile voting is one essential way to reduce barriers to voting and move the District to the forefront of modernizing elections,” said Councilmember Pinto.
Older adults, people with limited English proficiency, and people with disabilities, visual impairment, or limited transit access may have difficulty voting in person. Additionally, caregivers in the District, many of whom are women of color, and individuals who are hospitalized or have other emergencies, may also face barriers to voting. As we saw in the 2020election, voter participation increases when we make voting easier and provide more options to cast a ballot. Councilmember Pinto said, “It is critical to provide greater access to elections especially for residents who have been historically underserved or excluded from the election process.”
Smartphone access has increased dramatically recently, with85% of adults owning a smartphone device in 2021. District residents conduct various important transactions over mobile phones and computer devices, including filing tax returns and conducting bank transactions.
This bill would allow any eligible voter to securely cast an absentee ballot from a smartphone, tablet, or a computer without having to travel to a polling site or mailbox or to stand in line to vote. In a manner similar to the confirmation of electronically submitted tax returns, voters would be able to verify their ballot choices are recorded correctly and track them to confirm that their submissions were accurately received and accepted.
The bill makes the following improvements
This bill will help to ensure that District residents have greater opportunity to engage in the electoral process. “District residents deserve to have more voting options. When more residents vote, more residents are heard and it’s important that government listens to those voices,” said Councilmember Pinto.