ORLANDO, Fl. — Voting can be a tough process for many different groups across the country. For those impacted by natural disasters, many polling places were destroyed. But, voting can also be difficult for people who can’t get off work, our troops overseas and for voters with disabilities.
The good news is there is work taking place to make the 2024 presidential election more accessible to everyone.
“What if we could reinvent our electoral process? What if we completely reimagined the way that voters are actually engaging with their government,” asked Ramon Perez, founder of the nonprofit Voting Rights Brigade.
Perez is asking the big questions, but he’s also part of the solution.
“Our goal is to go nationwide,” he said. He is working to bring the mobile voting platform,Voatz, nationwide. He said he is hoping to create a future where elections are accessible to everyone and where voters can vote from their phones.
“Basically, we're saying you could vote from your couch. You don't have to worry about getting the day off from work. You don't have to worry about getting across town. You feel that sense of confidence that you're your voice is being heard,” said Perez.
Mobile voting through Voatz is already being used in Colorado, West Virginia, Utah, Oregon, Arizona, South Dakota, Michigan and Massachusetts for municipal elections. With more support from community members, more states could get on board.
“The technology is built in such a way to make it un-hackable, to make it transparent so that you can see that the vote tallies are all correct. You can have independent third-party audits,” said Perez
Perez said mobile voting could help vulnerable populations of all kinds stay involved in democracy, everyone from voters with disabilities to victims of natural disasters.
“In Florida, election season is also hurricane season. Whether it's wildfires or earthquakes or hurricanes, or whatever the case, people being displaced by some sort of natural disaster shouldn't have to forego their right to be heard in the voting process,” said Perez.
He’s taking mobile voting one step further with the launch of theDigital Democracy Project.
It allows people to vote from home on their phone or computer for both elections and specific pieces of legislation. Perez wants voters in the future to have the chance to make their voice heard on every piece of legislation local, state and federal officials are working on.
This would increase access to everyone to participate—especially those with disabilities.
James Chip Byers works with Perez to expand voting options for those with disabilities. Rolling out mobile voting is their biggest project yet.
“We now have disability-accessible voting machines in every precinct and in each county. So that was a big accomplishment,” said Byers.
Byers knows that it is not enough. Some voters will still be excluded. That is why he wants to make mobile voting available in every state.
“Voting really hasn't moved with the pace of technology,” said Byers. “I feel like that's a shame because voting is one of the most important things we can do with our lives, and we should have the top technology.”
Byers said a wider use of mobile voting and the Digital Democracy Project could stop those with disabilities from feeling isolated and left out of the electoral process.
“Disability is still the one minority groups that people really just don't understand. They think of them as people who need help,” said Byers. “We don't want to be helped, we just want to be included. And we want to help make the world a better place.”
That’s why Byers and Perez hope for 2024, more people will be willing to try both the Digital Democracy Project and mobile voting through Voatz.
“We would love to see people just try it for themselves and see how it goes,” said Perez.
“In time, it will prove that investing in technology and the best that we have to offer and bringing that to our political system is it's going to pay off in the end,” said Byers. “No question.”
If you would like more information on the Digital Democracy Project, click HERE. If you would like more information on the Voatz mobile voting system, click HERE.
To connect with the Voting Rights Brigade, click HERE.