US: West Virginia Completes First Blockchain-Supported State Elections

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The blockchain-based portable voting stage, created by Voatz, was just accessible to a select gathering of voters. Participants were deployed military members, different subjects qualified to vote non-attendant under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA), and their spouses and dependents. Participation was further limited to voters registered in two West Virginia counties, Harrison and Monongalia.

State electoral processes and organization are the purview of the Office of the Secretary of State. Mike Queen, communications director for West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner, said:

“[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.”

The review of the voting activity will be performed by workers of Voatz, and the clerks representing Harrison and Monongalia counties. Other parties will also be invited to give feedback such as “interest groups here in West Virginia,” county clerks from non-participating jurisdictions, the state’s governor, and the Board of Public Works.

Following the audit, Secretary Warner will decide whether to implement the program statewide in the upcoming general elections in November. Queen predicts that Warner will only move ahead with statewide implementation if auditors of the trial-run agree that it is prudent to do so. Queen said that he expects Warner to make a decision by mid-July on whether to expand the program.

While Queen expresses hope for the system’s use in future elections, some experts remain skeptical regarding electronic voting, and Voatz’s solution in particular. University of South Carolina computer science professor Duncan Buell believes that the facial-recognition and fingerprint-scanning technologies the company employs to verify voter identities could be vulnerable to hacks. Queen, however, said the Secretary’s office is “very encouraged so far today and we believe that [blockchain-based voting] is a real viable option.” He added that there “are a lot of other states who are asking about this mobile voting solution and who are also interested in it.”

The trial-run was first announced in March of this year. The decision was undertaken by Secretary Warner “…to improve accessibility and enhance confidence in our electoral system.”

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