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AlabamaVotes mobile app makes registering easier for Alabamians

In May, the AlabamaVotes mobile app was released to download on smartphones by the Alabama secretary of state's official election center. Alabama residents are now able to register to vote anywhere they can get a signal on their cellphone.

“We believe that this will continue to take us forward as we introduce new technologies and new ideas that make it more efficient and more effective for people to participate in the electoral process,” said Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill.

People who have already registered on their computers to vote will be familiar with the application as it mirrors, and according to John Bennett, the secretary's deputy chief of staff, the entire electronic voting system is off to a good start.

“After adding our system online ... from January 22 through May 9, our online portal was responsible for more than all the [other] types of registration combined, which includes mailing in a ballot or going to the in-person registration," Bennett said.

All of the electronic registering has also resulted in less paperwork for county boards of registrars as well. 

“Most people in the board of registrars have been very supportive of what we are trying to do and are very encouraged because they realize how much easier it makes their job,” Merrill said.

The online voting app could also serve as a cost-saving measure ahead of the November presidential election, which could prove to be invaluable as the state continues to struggle with funding.

In 2015, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency announced plans to close all but four of the state's drivers' license offices after a series of budget cuts.

A valid, state-issued photo ID like a drivers' license is required to vote in the state of Alabama. The state later walked back some of those plans after heavy national scrutiny. 

Bennett said he worked with technology staff in the capitol to develop this application. They used an online, third-party source to provide a few minor programming changes.

“As we introduce new concepts and new ideas,” Merrill said. "We see what we need to take those concepts and ideas to the next step."
That next step, according to Bennett, is the implementation of online voting, which is up for discussion at conventions of the National Association of Secretaries of State.

“There is concern about the legitimacy of electronic voting,” Bennett said. “But as soon as we see the option to move towards that, we would like to be on the forefront to test that and implement it.”

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