Come November; we might be witnessing a blockchain-based voting exercise in West Virginia. Although the initiative has been heavily criticized especially by cybersecurity experts and election specialists, it seems as though the criticism has fallen to deaf ears as the officials in charge of the project push ahead.
West Virginia Experiment with Blockchain
West Virginia revealed the idea of blockchain-based voting earlier in the year when state officials hinted the collaboration with a Boston-based technology startup, Voatz, to enable those who are categorized within the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act cast their ballots via blockchain. The initiative was tested across two counties during the May 8th primary election and now set to use the same system in the November election. Notably, this will enable the eligible overseas military personnel who want to vote digitally to cast their ballot equally.
There are speculations that the idea of a blockchain voting system was a brought by the West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner, the state secretary expresses his displeasure as to how he was disenfranchised during the 2012 and 2014 elections while he was away in Afghanistan. Warner stated that this system would “encourage voter participation at every level” via a secure, safe and accurate system.
According to Voatz, those who use the digital voting system must confirm their identity through a selfie and state ID. Voatz collects fingerprints, scans the voter’s face and subsequently the fingerprints once again before sending the completed ballot off to state officials. Mike Queen of the West Virginia’s Secretary of State’s Office added that the program would grind to a halt if evidence indicates that the voting process was compromised.
No doubt, there are still individuals who think this system is too big a risk to take, for instance; cybersecurity veteran Matt Blaze wrote that blockchain voting system makes ballot secrecy a hard nut to crack, adding that instead of solving fundamental issues of public elections, it would create new ones. Also, David Jefferson, a board member of Verified Voting, expressed his fears for internet voting systems owing to a range of potentially dangerous vulnerabilities of the system.
Despite this criticism, it is crystal clear that the government of West Virginia remains resolute and is forging ahead with the plan. Matt Warner stated that he reached out to other states and officials globally who have a similar interest in the ingenious innovation of blockchain technology.