From Monday, May 17 through Sunday, May 23, registered voters will be able to vote for one of two Democratic school board candidates securely from their computers, tablets or smartphones. Arlington Dems will provide assistance over the phone and two days of in-person voting help as well.
Registered voters will decide who Arlington Dems endorse in the Nov. 2 general election. Candidates are vying for the seat currently held by School Board Chair Monique O’Grady, who announced in January she will not seek re-election. Attorney Miranda Turner, and Mary Kadera, vice president of the Arlington County Council of PTAs, will be on the Arlington Dems’ caucus ballot.
According to local Democratic leadership, online voting is one way the organization looks to mitigate health risks during the pandemic.
“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 Democrats School Board Caucus Director. “We strongly encourage all voters who can to take advantage of this electronic voting option to do so.”
The voting platform will be open 24/7 and the local party is encouraging Democrats with less reliable or no internet access to make use of the county’s online resources. It will provide in-person assistance to those who need help or do not have internet access.
This expansion is funded by a $59,000 grant from the nonprofit National Cybersecurity Center, which raises cyber awareness in the public and private sectors. Arlington Dems will be using Democracy Live, which leadership described as the largest provider of mobile and cloud-based voting technologies in the U.S.
Arlington will be the second jurisdiction in the D.C. area to partner with Democracy Live, which facilitated elections in 21 states last November.
“With this innovation, Arlington Dems continues to lead our community through the pandemic,” Arlington Democrats Chair Jill Caiazzo said. “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.”
Should Arlington Dems receive a grant again, the organization would “definitely” consider using such a platform in the future, she added.
Local party leadership emphasized the security of the system. Amazon Web Services hosts Democracy Live’s platform in the same cloud environment approved by the Dept. of Defense, Dept. Homeland Security and the FBI.
“The Democracy Live platform has never been compromised by hackers,” Arlington Dems said, adding that the software also produces PDF copies of ballots to leave a paper trail.
The platform could help reach underrepresented communities, Zins said. Ballots will be available in multiple languages and Democracy Live’s platform complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
This time last year, when Arlington Dems held a caucus for two open School Board seats during stay-at-home orders, the group organized the first-of-its-kind mail-in endorsement caucus, which brought in around 5,700 ballots.
More details will be available online on the Arlington Democrats School Board caucus website as additional logistics are confirmed. Party leaders say they will conduct social media and outreach campaigns to spread the word about the new system.