West Virginia To Offer Blockchain Voting Option For Troops Serving Abroad In Midterm Elections

Blockchain, News | August 7, 2018 By:

West Virginia is planning to roll out a blockchain voting app for its midterm elections in November.

In May of this year, West Virginia became the first state in the US to pilot a blockchain-based smartphone voting app for US troops serving overseas and their dependents from Harrison and Monongalia counties. At the time, Secretary of State Mac Warner said that the plan was to extend the effort statewide during the midterms in November if the pilot proved to be successful.

The voting app, which was developed by Boston-based startup Voatz, uses facial recognition software to ensure that each voter matches their government-issued identification. Following this verification, voters would be able to cast their ballot using the Voatz app. Ballots are anonymized and recorded on a blockchain.

According to CNN, the West Virginia Secretary of State’s office claims that a round of four audits of the voting app’s blockchain infrastructure was completed following the pilot phase and “revealed no problems.” The office will now bring the voting app to UOCAVA (Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act) voters in the state’s 55 counties. West Virginia will reportedly limit the use of the voting app largely to troops serving abroad.

“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 said.

Michael L. Queen, Warner’s deputy chief of staff, said that each West Virginia county will have the final decision on whether to use the app in the November elections, adding that troops will be allowed to cast paper ballots if they choose.

While Voatz co-founder and CEO Nimit S. Sawhney sees the state as a springboard to broader use of the voting app, tech experts are not much in favor of mobile voting.

“Mobile voting is a horrific idea,” Joseph Lorenzo Hall, the chief technologist at the Center for Democracy and Technology, told CNN. “It’s Internet voting on people’s horribly secured devices, over our horrible networks, to servers that are very difficult to secure without a physical paper record of the vote.”