West Virginia Citizens Can Now Vote From Abroad With Blockchain-Based Voting App

The state of West Virginia has announced an initiative to permit its citizens living abroad to cast their ballots in this November's elections using a mobile app that runs on blockchain encryption.

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The state of West Virginia has announced an initiative to permit its citizens living abroad to cast their ballots in this November’s elections using a mobile app that runs on blockchain encryption.

Voting using blockchain-based application

Officials of West Virginia’s electoral commission announced on September 24 that citizens of West Virginia who reside overseas can now participate in the November elections using a blockchain based mobile application.

While the primary purpose of blockchain technology has been to facilitate better, more secure monetary based transactions, companies are beginning to think outside the box and apply it to various other sectors.

The state of West Virginia has announced that it would be making use of Voatz, a mobile voting platform built using blockchain technology and secured using smart biometrics and real-time identity verification, to allow out of state voters to cast their ballot.

West Virginians who live abroad will be able to partake in November’s elections using Voatz, with the application allowing registered voters in 24 different countries to vote via the platform.

The first use of Voatz

In May, West Virginians living abroad were treated to their first internet voting experience. The platform was tested in a pilot program in two of West Virginia’s 55 counties during the May 8 primary election.

The initiative began as a solution for eligible voters who live abroad and deployed members of the U.S. military to partake in elections back home.

Only a very small amount of West Virginians — as few as 13, according to one account — were involved in the first test.

Marc Warner, the West Virginia Secretary of State, called the pilot a success, explaining that it demonstrated both the security and effectiveness of voting over the internet for West Virginia.

Officials of the state report that there are around 6,000 registered voters who live overseas, estimating the general-election sample to reach 400 or 500 voters in November.

Internet voting won’t replace traditional ballots, at least for now

Marc Warner, the West Virginia Secretary of State has explained that although the state would be using internet voting, he doesn’t intend for the process to replace the traditional balloting system, at least not in the short term.

The Secretary of State explained to media outlet CNN that he is not calling for the Voatz application to replace traditional ballots.

Not everybody agrees with the process

Although the pilot project was a resounding success, not everyone agrees with the new method of voting in the state. Joseph Lorenzo Hall, chief technologist at the Center for Democracy and Technology who featured in the same CNN interview as Marc Warner stated that:

 “It’s internet voting on people’s horribly secured devices, over our horrible networks, to servers that are very difficult to secure without a physical paper record of the vote.”

Although the process is heavily criticized by many, Voatz co-founder and CEO Nimit S. Sawhney believes that the successful deployment of the mobile application by West Virginia would act as a springboard for the technology, with other states soon to follow.

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