By the time the state of West Virginia rolls out their blockchain-based mobile voting app to all of its 55 regions during the election in November, it would become the first state in the whole US to have done so in a federal election.
The first series has been offered to deployed military personnel and dependents from Harrison and Monongalia counties in the Senate primary elections held in May. Others were citizens eligible to vote absentee under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA). Other voters were allowed to make use of the usual ballot system. Test runs have been made on the app, and it was revealed to have no problem and safe for use.
Called “Secure Military Mobile Voting Solution,” the app was said to have been a joint effort between the government of West Virginia, and four non-partisan organizations: New America, the Blockchain Trust Accelerator, Voatz, and Tusk/Montgomery Philanthropies. Voatz, a technology start-up based in Boston, Massachusetts, is the technical background for the project, and have had apps developed by them used successfully in Town Meeting and Participatory Budget voting.
According to West Virginia Secretary of State, Mac Warner, the effort is to overcome a lot of technical obstacles that absentee voters from the military have encountered with the current cumbersome system.
“Absentee ballot systems previously offered to overseas military voters did not ensure anonymity, and many military voters were concerned their mail-in or faxed ballots may not be received in time, or may not be counted. The new mobile voting system resolves these concerns.”
Warner further explained that if the pilots prove to be successful, the plan is to make the technology available to all the 55 counties of the state during the 2018 general elections coming up in November.
“The office of the Secretary believes blockchain does provide a heightened level of security on this type of mobile voting app. We’re genuinely hoping that will allow this type of a mobile app to be made available in the future – as early perhaps as our general election – to military voters”, said Mike Queen, Communications director to Mac Warner.
Critics have however weighed in their opinion of this blockchain-based mobile voting app. In a recent contributing article for The Business Journals, technology trends expert Terry Brock explained how taking advantage of blockchain technology could revolutionize voting and elections.
“I did not realize how many people don’t vote simply because they cannot get to the polls. We think this might be an error, but the reality is that many people who want to vote are not able to,” Brock said.
“Using blockchain technology, we can make sure that those who are voting are who they say they are and are legally allowed to vote… anyone who knows how to use a cell phone can understand the technology.”
Joseph Lorenzo Hall, the chief technologist at the Center for Democracy and Technology, does not share this opinion, as he sees the blockchain method of voting as rather ‘horrific.’
“It’s internet voting on people’s secured devices, over our horrible networks, to servers that are very difficult to secure without a physical paper record of the vote.”
If casting one’s vote on the phone in the comfort of one’s house is good or bad, only the future will tell.