During this year’s US midterm elections, West Virginia used a blockchain-based voting app for the first time. Created by the tech company Voatz, the app was first tested in two separate counties during this year’s primaries. After those tests were successful, it was used on a wider scale during this week’s midterm election.
According to StateScoop, only 13 people chose to use the app to vote in the county primaries, but over 150 people used the app in 24 out of the 55 countries in the general midterm elections. Most of these voters are currently deployed military personnel or Peace Corps volunteers, who are stationed abroad.
The process for placing your ballot is not complex but somewhat tedious. The Voatz app is available for download for any smartphone user with access to Apple’s App Store or Google Play store. When user’s make an account, they have to give their phone numbers and an 8-digit pin code. There are also extra precautions like two-factor authentication that helps fight against account hacking and vote tampering.
After these steps are completed, users are required to provide three different proofs of their identities. First, they must submit a photo/scan of their driver’s license. After, they must go through an in-app instructional video to send a video of their faces. Different facial technologies (like Apple’s Face ID) are used to verify that the face in the video is the same, so they can register their account in the voter registration database.
Once the account has been registered, users can simply submit their votes through the app as long as their identity is properly verified through Face ID or finger-scanner technology.
After the votes are submitted, they are printed out onto a proper ballot. The paper ballots are kind of like the Scantron tests you did in high school, and are fed into the same machine educators use to mark those multiple-choice tests.
West Virginia’ Secretary of State Mac Warner discussed the app’s usage with StateScoop, and seemed to have some kind words for its future:
“Blockchain is being used in everything from health care to transportation, pretty much all the different ways high-tech solutions to the problems Americans are facing. It’s not trendy. It’s the wave of the future,” said Warner.
Despite Warner’s praise, the state has faced a lot of criticism over its use of the app. Many have claimed he has endangered the sanctity of the democratic process by trusting a relatively new and trendy form of technology. In addition, while the audit claims the app’s data center hasn’t proven that it can provide quick incident response or properly delegate security work.
Nonetheless, Warner claims that he plans to continue the use of the app in state elections. But will relegate it mainly to use with specific segments of the state’s population, namely West Virginians living overseas or in the military.
The Secretary of State’s team will reportedly be reviewing the recent blockchain-based voting records. After they have completed a full audit, a new report will be released next week to determine the success of its performance.