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City of Chandler reviews result of mock election that tested voting by cell phone

Months after members of the Chandler City Council approved a pilot program that could allow residents to vote by cell phone, officials are tabulating the results from the program.

City council members approved the program on Aug. 26, which looks into utilizing blockchain technology as a secure form of voting from anywhere that would allow more participation in election.

"This pilot program will help us identify the feasibility and interest of using this technology in future City elections, and Council believes this could enhance accessibility, increase voter participation and streamline the election process," according to Mayor Kevin Hartke.

Mock election held

The concept was first tested in a mock election, during a three-week period after the city's bond election on Nov. 2.

In the program, officials with the City of Chandler asked residents to download an app and vote in the mock election, where those who participated answered questions about city bonds, and whether or not they'd use the technology in a real election.

The results, as well as the auditing process, was instantaneous.

"You remember in 2018 and 2020, we had these ballot dumps in the middle of the night, and these big events where we didn't know the results for weeks. With blockchain, it's instantaneous and it's auditable," said Chandler Vice Mayor Mark Stewart.

The company VOATZ ran the program, and the results were audited in real-time, printing and matching ballots from the online ledger

Benefits, risks to vote by cell phone

Believers in the technology tout security. Essentially, voters get an anonymous ID put into the blockchain - a receipt of their vote sent to them - and the ability to match it up themselves after the fact.

However, technology will always come with risks, and whether or not the general public would ever put faith in to the system remains to be seen.

"It's what we've tried to do in a digital system: mirror real world checks and balances," said VOATZ Co-Founder Nimit Sawhney. "So, if someone tries to do something bad, it can be detected early and it can't cause damage to the election"

Another hurdle is the State of Arizona. Currently, state law prohibits voting by phone, so the Arizona Legislature would have to act to make this a reality on a larger scale.

More on the program: https://www.chandleraz.gov/blog/august-23-work-session-recap-mobile-voting-pilot

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