West Virginia to Offer Blockchain Voting Statewide in November Elections

Judy Cobb
August 9, 2018

West Virginia is set to debut a blockchain-based voting platform for the upcoming November midterm elections in the United States. There's a catch, though.

Writing for CNN in May, Emily Parker, co-founder of LongHash, stated that West Virginia used the blockchain-based mobile app in the federal election.

A hot potato: Even if the Voatz app is 100 percent secure, experts warn that other key cogs of the process - like smartphones and the networks they connect to - are not, thus jeopardizing the integrity of mobile voting. The move will allow troops overseas to participate in the polls.

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". Those who will use this app to vote will first have to register by taking a photo of their government-issued identification in addition to a selfie-style video of their face which will be uploaded through the app. Using its facial recognition software, Voatz will ensure that the photo and video are of the same person.

But Schneider also suggested a ballot cast on Voatz could be susceptible if the voter's device has already been corrupted. This isn't meant to replace traditional balloting and troops will be able to cast paper ballots instead if they so prefer.

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Ballots are anonymized, the company says, and recorded on a public digital ledger called blockchain.

West Virginia will become the first in the country to permit voting by a smartphone app, the news network reported.

Voatz is a Boston-based startup that combines internet-based voting with blockchain technology.

So far, the constituency authority of West Virginia is going to limit the use of the mobile app largely to troops serving overseas saying that nobody else deserves the right to vote any more than the people that are out there, and the women that are out there, putting their lives on the line for the sake of the U.S.

Joseph Lorenzo Hall, chief technologist at Center for Democracy and Technology, said that it was "a frightful idea". "It's internet voting on people's horribly secured devices, over our awful networks, to servers that are very hard to secure without a physical paper record of the vote".

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