Funding Will Add a Full Week of Secure, Electronic Ballot Return to the May Contest, in Addition to In-Person Voting Assistance
Friday, March 26, 2021, ARLINGTON, Va.—The Arlington County Democratic Committee (Arlington Dems) has been awarded a grant by the nonprofit National Cybersecurity Center (NCC) that will enable a significant expansion of opportunities for Arlingtonians to participate in the upcoming Arlington Dems School Board Caucus. It will add a secure, electronic balloting option that will further facilitate safe voting under COVID-19 pandemic conditions by enabling voters to cast ballots securely from their computers, tablets or smartphones.
The NCC is a 501(c)(3) non-profit dedicated to raising cyber awareness, education, and innovation across public and private sectors. Originally envisioned by former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper and founded in 2016, the NCC has active initiatives across a wide variety of areas including cyber education, election security, and SMART cities.
The grant will enable Arlington Dems to partner with Democracy Live, the largest provider of mobile and cloud-based voting technologies in the United States, to offer a full week—168 hours—of mobile electronic voting for the School Board Caucus. In addition, Arlington Dems will offer 14 hours of in-person voting assistance. This assistance will be provided over two days, leveraging Democracy Live’s ADA-compliant, multilingual, mobile-accessible electronic voting platform. Arlington Dems also will look for opportunities to host additional socially distanced voter support events around the county to expand access to the electronic voting platform.
“Since last year, Arlington Dems has worked diligently to identify safe options for voting under pandemic conditions. We’re excited to now be able to offer a secure and scalable Internet-based ballot delivery option that allows voters to eliminate or greatly reduce their exposure to COVID-19 as the nationwide vaccination effort continues,” said Alex Zins, Arlington Dems School Board Caucus Director. “We strongly encourage all voters who can to take advantage of this electronic voting option to do so. We also will continue to offer in-person voting, particularly for those who require assistance with voting or who do not have Internet access.”
Democracy Live: 10 million U.S. voters in 21 States
Democracy Live deployed its technology in 21 states in the 2020 election cycle, supporting more than 2,500 local election jurisdictions. Founded in 2007, Democracy Live has helped to franchise nearly 10 million U.S. voters by providing electronic balloting technology.
The company partners with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to securely host ballots, data, and its platform and technology in the same cloud environment approved by all federal agencies, including the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security, and the FBI. The Democracy Live platform has never been compromised by hackers. To ensure the integrity of the vote, the software also produces PDF copies of ballots, creating a paper trail, if needed. Ballots also will be available in multiple languages.
While the neighboring states of North Carolina and West Virginia have offered electronic balloting options via Democracy Live, Washington, D.C., is the only jurisdiction in the DMV to have partnered with the company to-date.
Two Candidates to Vie for Endorsement for Open School Board Seat
The caucus will determine who Arlington Dems will support between two candidates competing in the Nov. 2 general election for the seat now held by School Board Chair Monique O’Grady, who previously was endorsed by Arlington Dems, but will not seek re-election. Miranda Turner and Mary Kadera will be on the Arlington Democrats’ caucus ballot.
Caucus Voting Options Address Digital Equity
With the U.S. Census Bureau estimating that nearly 96% of the Washington, DC metro region households have access to a computer, and 74% of county residents reporting that they have four or more Internet-enabled devices at home (including 95% of Hispanic residents), the vast majority of Arlington residents should be able to take advantage of this electronic, mobile-accessible voting option. Residents with less reliable or no access to the Internet can leverage the County’s substantial array of free digital resources, which include WiFi hotspots at various locations.
Recognizing that some residents may require additional support, Arlington Dems will continue to offer an in-person voting option for those voters. To address this need, Arlington Dems added more in-person hours than the minimum called for under previously adopted caucus rules, although most voters are expected and encouraged to access the electronic voting platform from home because of the continuing risk of COVID-19. Assistance by phone also will be available.
Electronic ballot return may be particularly helpful in expanding voting access by persons with disabilities. Voters with disabilities are a rapidly expanding portion of the electorate, according to a September 2020 study by two Rutgers University professors. A projected 38.3 million non-institutionalized Americans with disabilities were eligible to vote in the November 2020 elections, representing close to one-sixth of the total electorate, according to the study. In Virginia, that number was nearly 5.3 million, or 15% of the commonwealth’s electorate. The number of eligible voters with disabilities has increased nearly 20% since 2008, compared to an increase of 12% among eligible voters without disabilities. Significant subsets of the disabled electorate are also members of racial or ethnic minorities, the study found.
“Arlington Dems is pleased to provide additional support to the disability community through the use of an ADA-compliant electronic voting platform, and will look for more ways to encourage participation in the School Board Caucus by traditionally underrepresented communities,” noted Zins.
Electronic Voting Comes After Earlier Unprecedented Effort to Offer Safe Voting During Pandemic
After last spring’s stay-at-home order in the commonwealth, Arlington Dems planned and launched the first-of-its-kind mail-in endorsement caucus, for two open School Board seats, which allowed voters to minimize their exposure to COVID-19. Although there was no other election on the ballot, more than 5,700 ballots were cast, which was within 272 votes of the previous county caucus record.
The newly-announced electronic voting option, made possible by the NCC grant, is a continuation of the Arlington Dems’ response to pandemic conditions. Other aspects of this response have focused on supporting County efforts to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine to residents, including redirecting the Arlington Dems’ “Rides to the Polls” operation to help seniors of all political stripes register for and obtain COVID-19 vaccinations.
“Arlington Dems is proud to be the recipient of this grant, grateful to the National Cybersecurity Center, and excited to partner with Democracy Live to bring secure, mobile, electronic voting to the county,” said Arlington Dems Chair Jill Caiazzo. “With this innovation, Arlington Dems continues to lead our community through the pandemic. By bringing electronic voting to the county, with a focus on digital equity, we will offer even more Arlingtonians easy, secure access to one of the most fundamental rights Americans exercise, while also reducing the risk of COVID-19 infections that the country continues to battle.”
Details about the Arlington Dems School Board Caucus are available at www.arlingtondemocrats.org/sbcaucus, which will be updated as additional logistics are confirmed. As in past years, Arlington Dems will undertake a significant social media and outreach campaign to spread information about the caucus throughout the county.