Tech

West Virginia set to allow smartphone voting for those serving overseas

West Virginia set to allow smartphone voting for those serving overseas

West Virginia is rolling out a blockchain-based mobile voting app to all of the state's 55 counties so that military personnel stationed overseas can more easily cast their ballots in the midterm elections. There's a catch, though. Availability will be limited "largely" to troops serving overseas as an alternative to mailed absentee ballots, and individual counties can decide whether or not to participate.

Boston-based Voatz has been piloting its ballot app with smaller non-government elections around the country and in local government elections in the local area. The West Virginia figures do not include overseas troops, yet as per data by Pew Research Center, the United States troops deployed abroad in 2016 amounted to 15% of the active duty personnel.

Some have expressed concerns that the process of voting by smartphones could compromise the integrity of the election if there are attempts to hack the voting infrastructure during the midterm elections.

But Schneider also suggested a ballot cast on Voatz could be susceptible if the voter's device has already been corrupted. The votes cast on the platform are anonymized and recorded on the blockchain.

Notably, the state officials will leave a final decision on using the app in November to each county, in the meanwhile Warner stressed that he is not calling for the replacement of traditional balloting, and said troops can cast paper ballots if they like.

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Representatives for the Center for Democracy and Technology as well as watchdog organization Verified Vote are against mobile voting as security on a number of points of exposure can't be guaranteed.

The software underlying the app was developed by technology startup Voatz that has recently received about $2.4 million in funding.

"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".

The state had tested the app, called Voatz, during the May 8 primary election with voters hailing from two counties, and now intends to make it available to all 55 counties following a security audit that found "no blocking or critical issues" during the pilot. "It's internet voting on people's horribly secured devices, over our frightful networks, to servers that are very hard to secure without a physical paper record of the vote".