State of West Virginia pioneers blockchain voting for US military overseas

The US state of West Virginia is launching a blockchain-based biometric voting app for members of the military serving overseas, giving troops the opportunity to vote in the midterm elections in November.

As reported by Bitcoin News, the project is the result of a partnership between West Virginia state and the Boston-based blockchain startup Voatz and follows successful trials on primary elections within the state earlier in the year.

The secretary of state for West Virginia, Mac Warner, has signed off the technology – which verifies voters with a fingerprint scan, a photo of ID documents and user video – after numerous audits of its cloud and blockchain infrastructure.  

It was initially planned that successful pilots would see the app rolled out to all the State’s 55 counties in time for the midterms, however, the technology is currently still being limited to military personnel abroad.

In addition to added security (in theory, at least), the app helps to overcome previous issues such as late receipt of the ballots, both by the voter and the state once submitted, and a lack of anonymity caused by being an absentee.

“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 commented on the initiative.

Despite the advantages, the project hasn’t been greeted by positivity all round; a spokesperson for the Center of Democracy and Technology allegedly called mobile voting a “horrific idea”, that despite the benefits of immutability and efficiency on paper, could be subject to the same cyber attacks as those of cryptocurrency exchanges in recent months.  

Meanwhile, given heightened concerns around national security in the US following reported Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, many are not exactly willing to experiment with new voting systems at present.

Either way, West Virginia has taken a bold and pioneering step in launching the initiative and has, at the very least, opened up consideration and further discourse around blockchain’s application within an important part of the public sphere.

Writing for The Block in November last year, Zap Project co-founder Nick Spanos wrote about the benefits of bringing blockchain technology to the voting process, citing transparency and security as key factors, although he argued that the best system would still require a physical ballot paper.   

“America’s voting machines are out of date, insecure, difficult to use, and largely supplied by a single vendor whose vote-counting software is proprietary – i.e. its inner-workings are a secret.

“Logging election records (ballot data) on the blockchain would not only allow the public to inspect granular election data themselves, it also creates a secure and permanent record that makes it much more difficult for any tampering to go on after the fact.

“Timestamped blockchain records would ensure that any data added later would stick out like a sore thumb. When combined with the actual paper ballots used to cast votes, it becomes virtually impossible to manipulate election results undetected,” said Spanos.


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