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Going mobile could get more Americans to vote

Illustration of phone going into a ballot box
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Mobile voting, the mission of a Boston-based startup called Voatz, could be the answer to a problem in U.S. politics: Many Americans don't vote.

Driving the news: Even in the hotly-contested 2016 presidential race, only 58% of eligible voters showed up. Some of that may be apathy, but some is certainly the inconvenience of asking working adults to visit polling places on weekdays; particularly when some urban locations have lines that would make Walt Disney blush.

Where it stands: On Thursday, Voatz raised $7 million in Series A funding co-led by Medici Ventures and Techstars. It ran pilot tests last year in West Virginia, whereby overseas military could vote in real elections via smartphone rather than via paper mail. It also just completed a pilot in Denver's municipal elections, including both the regular election and a run-off.

  • It also opened itself up to a "citizen's audit" for the Denver elections — an important step given widespread security concerns about such a system.
  • Proceeds will be used, in part, to expand the technology to work with the disability community (i.e., people who have physical difficulty getting to polling locations).

Yes, but: CEO Nimit Sawhney acknowledges that this is really the pregame, not even early innings. The funding should last 18 months, and even best-case scenarios don't put smartphone voting in electoral gen-pop until 2024 or 2026. He says there are more jurisdictions signed up for tests over the next year.

My thought bubble: Honestly, this is one we should all be rooting for. No idea if Voatz's technology, which combines blockchain ledger verification with facial recognition, is how we ultimately get there. But at least it's trying to solve a real problem.

Go deeper: Pro Rata Podcast on mobile voting