West Virginia will try mobile voting for troops serving overseas

Why voting in the US is so hard

Warner and Voatz both insist that the app is secure.

West Virginia will reportedly allow troops serving overseas to vote in November's midterm elections using a mobile app.

The Voatz mobile app employs facial recognition to match the face of the voter to the person's photo on their government-issued identification. Commenting on the security of the voting app, the tech firm said that voter information and ballot data are encrypted and stored on a decentralized network.

But the use of smartphone-, app-, and blockchain-based voting prompts concerns, because these technologies may not be consistent with the recommended way to secure an election. The state is also distributing $6.5 million in federal funds for election-security upgrades, and partnering with its National Guard on election-related cybersecurity, Secretary of State Mac Warner said at the conference. The percentage might be different as of March this year, but given the small number of West Virginians serving overseas, the new voting system will hardly benefit a large number of people. The votes cast on the platform are anonymized and recorded on the blockchain.

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Voatz, a cybersecurity company based in Boston, Massachusetts, developed the blockchain-based voting software.

Now, according to CNN, Warner's office claims that a round of four audits of the application's blockchain infrastructure was completed following the pilot phase and "revealed no problems".

"Mobile voting is a horrific idea", Joseph Lorenzo Hall, the chief technologist at the Center for Democracy and Technology, said.

"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".

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From late March to late May, Voatz was used to gather votes from two counties for the senate primaries in its first U.S. federal election. "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".

Marian K. Schneider, president of the watchdog group Verified Voting, also rejected the idea, anxious by potential hacks and the lack of a paper trail of the vote.

November will provide just such a test. Supporters and skeptics of mobile voting will be watching closely.

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