US West Virginia State Offers Blockchain Voting to Overseas Troops

Joanna Estrada
August 9, 2018

US troops serving overseas will be able to use a smartphone application based on blockchain technology for casting federal election ballots in West Virginia this November. Mac Warner, West Virginia's secretary of state, had said that he would consider using the voting app throughout the state if its pilot version worked effectively in both counties.

"There is nobody that deserves the right to vote any more than the guys that are out there, and the women that are out there, putting their lives on the line for us", Warner added.

The process involves registering on the app, which will require users to take a photo of their government-ID and a selfie-style video of their face, and upload them via the app. Once approved, voters will be able to cast their votes, which are then recorded on the blockchain, ensuring the information is encrypted securely.

But Schneider also suggested a ballot cast on Voatz could be susceptible if the voter's device has already been corrupted.

The ballots will be anonymized and recorded on a public digital ledger that's commonly known as the blockchain. And the troops involved in it will continue to have the option of voting old-school with paper ballots.

Now, according to CNN, Warner's office claims that a round of four audits of the application's blockchain infrastructure was completed following the pilot phase and "revealed no problems".

Voatz is a pioneer in the blockchain voting and mobile balloting niche. Each county within the state will though make the final decision whether to use the app.

One of the stated reasons for using the app is to make it easier for military personnel working overseas to cast their votes in the upcoming midterm elections.

Joseph Lorenzo Hall, the chief technologist at the Center for Democracy and Technology, even told CNN that it was a "horrific idea" because of the security vulnerabilities it opens up.

Michael L. Queen, Warner's deputy chief of staff, told CNN that officials would allow each county to decide whether they will use the app in the upcoming elections.

"It's internet voting on people's horribly secured devices, over our terrible networks, to servers that are very hard to secure without a physical paper record of the vote", Hall said.

While critics have been vocal in their condemnation of the technology, West Virginia seems intent on trying out the plan.

November will provide just such a test. Supporters and skeptics of mobile voting will be watching closely.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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