Nearly 150 West Virginians voted with a mobile blockchain app

This election season, the state of West Virginia implemented a blockchain-based voting app for the first time. The app, created by a company called Voatz, was first tested in two counties during the primaries earlier this year. After a successful test, it was used during the midterm election this past week at a wider scale. StateScoop reported that as few as 13 people used the app to vote in county primaries, a number that grew to nearly 150 people voting from 24 out of the 55 counties in the general midterm. A majority of these voters are currently deployed military members or Peace Corps volunteers.

The process for placing the ballot is simple but lengthy. The Voatz app is available for download for anyone on Apple’s App Store or the Google Play Store. When registering an account, users must provide their phone numbers and an eight-digit pin code, adding extra precautions like two-factor authentication in order to prevent accounts from being hacked or votes being tampered with. Then, users must authenticate their identities in three separate ways. First, they must submit a photo of their driver’s license. Then, they follow along with an in-app instructional video to shoot and send a video of their faces. Facial recognition technologies, like Apple’s Face ID, are used to verify that the face in the video is the same and the account is registered in the state’s voter registration base.

After the account is registered, users can submit their votes through the app so long as their identity is verified with technology like Face ID or by scanning their fingerprints.

The votes are then printed out onto a paper ballot. The paper ballots look like high school Scantron tests, and are fed through a machine similar to the one educators use for those multiple choice tests.

West Virginia’s Secretary of State Mac Warner told StateScoop, “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,” Warner said.

The secretary of state’s office will be conducting a full review of the blockchain-based voting records, and after the full audit is completed, will be releasing a report next week detailing its performance.

Comments

I would definitely use this if…

1. I understood why they needed blockchain to implement it.
2. It had a name that didn’t make it sound like a college freshman’s hackathon project.

Oh well. More 2 hour lines at the polls in Brooklyn for me.

Because of it’s resiliency to data modification by its intrinsic design.

Don’t need blockchain for that, this is more hype

Are you suggesting an alternative to a distributed ledger?

Paper. Impossible to hack remotely.

It’s west virginia… mountain momma, country roads. It’s hard for paper to say take me home.

No, I’m saying you don’t need a distributed ledger

Wait, so are they submitted electronically or is a paper ballot printed and you still need to bring that to the polls? The article wasn’t very descriptive of what part happens where. Does the election office print it out and scan it? That seems silly if they already have an electronic submission.

This data should be publicly accessible in real time. Opinions on that?

There’s not much written about how this is implemented on the server side. I’m guessing this runs on a permissioned blockchain? I suppose that’s more secure than relying on voting machines with 20 year old known vulnerabilities. Still nowhere near tamper-proof, but a pretty good upgrade.

Why not just allow voters to acquire a unique pin\password to use with their ID number while in person at a Drivers License office. The person can then download the app, login, and then change the pin\password, and set up 2 factor authentication.

There’s no need for all the in app account setup BS.

OMG clicked edit immediately, but it wouldn’t let me save the line I added….

There’s also no need for fingerprint or biometric data, the app can just require manual pin\pass entry on open, annual changes to pin\pass, and auto logoff after 5min of non-use.

Somebody would basically need to hold a voter at gunpoint and force them to log in and vote how they wanted. It wouldn’t happen enough to swing an election, so no need for concern.

One of the third parties (Libertarian, I believe?) tried something similar recently for their national nomination convention, and it was a great success

Another feature that would be great is being able to look up/confirm your vote at any time—as could the election board for runoff/recount purposes

Most blockchain startups are nonsense but I feel this is a solid use-case

Another feature that would be great is being able to look up/confirm your vote at any time—as could the election board for runoff/recount purposes

This only works if all votes are public. If you can only look at your vote, then your ballot can be tied to you.

Here in Georgia the MVP (My Voter Portal) allows you to confirm your vote was accepted.

I’m still not even sure what block chain actually is. Can someone explain it in simple terms pls?

Data is mirrored across everyone and is only updated when multiple parties confirm that the update is valid.

So you vote and then multiple other members of the chain audit that the vote has indeed happened and only when the majority of the peers agree is this essentially pushed into the rest of the peers.

Frankly, I think this is the one of the few use cases where blockchain makes sense.

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