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Chandler testing out digital voting instead of paper ballots

The City of Chandler will conduct a mock election later this year that allows its residents to fill out a ballot through their phones.

CHANDLER, Ariz. — The City of Chandler is checking to see how feasible it may be to shift its elections over to a digital platform in the near future.

On Thursday, the Chandler City Council approved awarding a $50,000 contract for Voatz Inc. to provide an online platform that could allow the city's residents to digitally vote in local elections.  

To test out the platform's proficiency, the city will conduct a mock election and present its results publicly in December.

Voters will have three weeks, starting on Nov. 9, to sign up on the Voatz platform and cast a digital ballot in Chandler's mock election. 

The pilot study will run in the weeks following an actual election Chandler is holding on Nov. 2 for a bond initiative the city is hoping to pass. 

For the mock election, participants may be asked the same questions listed for the city's bond election and additional questions asking how they feel about voting digitally in the future. 

"One of the key goals of the pilot program is to evaluate the effectiveness of the auditing capability by encouraging citizens to participate in the process directly using the convenience and security of their smart devices," city documents state. 

Results from the mock election won't affect November's bond election nor any other future city elections. 

Voatz has previously used its voting app for elections in West Virginia, Colorado, Oregon, and Utah. 

In 2020, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found flaws and weaknesses in the Voatz app that could make them vulnerable to hackers.

Chandler's initiative comes at a time when the topic of election integrity continues to surface in states that still doubt the results of last year's presidential election. 

State lawmakers in Pennsylvania have recently indicated they may conduct an election audit similar to the one spearheaded by Arizona Senate President Karen Fann in Maricopa County. 

Chandler believes its pilot study will be a knowledgeable opportunity to find out how voter verification and audit reporting can be accomplished in a digital setting.

Some experts still consider electronic platforms to be an insecure method of voting and have recommended sticking to mail-in or in-person ballots. 

The American Association for the Advancement of Science released a bulletin earlier this year that warned municipalities of the "unacceptable threats" they could fall victim to by introducing digital voting options.

"Blockchain-based voting systems introduce additional security vulnerabilities and fail to address the fundamental security concerns scientists, election security experts, and government officials have expressed since the advent of internet voting," the center wrote in its bulletin.

RELATED: Maricopa County risks losing state funds if it doesn't hand over election equipment to state Senate, AG's office says

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