Va. to Allow Troops Overseas to Vote in Midterms by Mobile Phones

West Virginia to Offer Blockchain Voting Options for Midterms

The pilot project has gone well and now, the app is set to be used by soldiers around the world who vote in the state to elect a senator.

West Virginia is poised to be the first state in the country to allow citizens to cast federal election ballots using a smartphone app. Because it's 2018, Voatz naturally touts its use of blockchain technology (as well as registration based on government ID and a self-shot video for facial recognition, plus an additional layer of biometric security with either another selfie or thumbprint) to anonymously tally and verify each submitted ballot.

Troops will still be able to cast paper ballots if they prefer.

In May, West Virginia had launched a beta version of the blockchain-based voting app for military officers and their families in Monongalia and Harrison counties. The state is also distributing $6.5 million in federal funds for election-security upgrades, and partnering with its National Guard on election-related cybersecurity, Secretary of State Mac Warner said at the conference.

The ballots will be anonymized and recorded on a public digital ledger that's commonly known as the blockchain.

Voatz, a cybersecurity company based in Boston, Massachusetts, developed the blockchain-based voting software. So far the technology has been limited to trial runs and private elections, such as balloting for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

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Michael L. Queen, Warner's deputy chief of staff, says the final decisions will be left to individual counties on whether they want to use the app for the election.

"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". "All the problems with internet voting are present in the app West Virginia is using".

Joseph Lorenzo Hall, chief technologist at Center for Democracy and Technology, said that it was "a terrible idea".

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. Hall described it as Internet voting on people's horribly secured devices, over frightful networks to servers that are very hard to secure without a physical paper record of the vote.

President of the Election, Marian K. Schneider has since shut down the entire idea in the simplest manner possible. She explicitly said, "The short answer is no".

"There is something to be said sometimes for small-scale pilots where we can learn the trade-offs", he concluded.

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