According to Bitcoin News, the state of West Virginia is launching a blockchain-based voting application designed for military troops serving overseas. With the app, troops stationed abroad will have the opportunity to vote in the midterm elections this November.
The project, a partnership between the state and Boston-based blockchain project Voatz, is the first of its kind to reach this far. However, there are also several other companies intending to explore the use of mobile apps as voting systems. Given recent concerns across the U.S. about the activities of Russian hackers during the 2016 elections and heightened tension regarding voting security, blockchain-based solutions could present a helpful development.
Following on Success of Earlier State Election
Earlier this year, West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner reportedly planned to test a blockchain-based voting solution for the state’s Senate primary election. Assuming that this trial run proved successful, the state would allow all 55 counties to take part in the new method for the upcoming general election. Warner’s office reported that no problems were found following four audits of the software and after the pilot election process took place.
For the pilot, the blockchain app was offered to military personnel serving overseas in two specific counties. For the time being, the blockchain app will be limited to those serving abroad.
Benefits of the App
The app is designed to address several of the issues caused by absentee ballots submitted by those serving overseas. One problem is the late receipt of these ballots, both by absentee voters and by the state following the submission of the ballots. This slows down the voting and tabulation processes. Another concern is voter anonymity. In each of these cases, voting by app could help to address these concerns.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, there is also substantial pushback to the idea of voting via mobile app. A representative for the Center for Democracy and Technology suggested that “mobile voting is a horrific idea.” While blockchain offers an immutable, public ledger that is updated in real time, thereby increasing efficiency and theoretically enhancing security, the example of blockchain-based cryptocurrencies is reason enough for some to balk at the idea of blockchain app voting.
Cryptocurrencies have been subjected to intensive hacks, fraud and scams of various kinds. Given the critical importance of voting, as well as the tense national debate about Election Day security, some are simply not willing to introduce a dramatic change to the voting process at this time. Nonetheless, West Virginia has taken a crucial first step in applying blockchain technology to yet another area of public life in need of revision and renewal.