West Virginia taps blockchain technology for mid-term elections

Virginia Primary Election

West Virginia will offer troops serving abroad a chance to vote using a mobile app in November. Bill Clark

The first-ever mobile phone voting app for federal elections uses a person's registered photo from their government-issued identification and submits a video of their face, CNN reported Monday.

When asked if mobile voting was a good idea, Marian K. Schneider, president of the election integrity watchdog group Verified Voting, said, "The short answer is no". This isn't meant to replace traditional balloting and troops will be able to cast paper ballots instead if they so prefer. This has been done to make participation easier for troops stationed overseas.

It's a limited pilot program, and the West Virginia secretary of State who is promoting it, Mac Warner, is smart to try it out on a category of voters hard to mess with.

"In regards to Russian involvement in the midterm elections, we continue to see a pervasive messaging campaign by Russia to try to weaken and divide the United States", Director of National Intelligence Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsWest Virginia set to allow smartphone voting for those serving overseas GOP congressional candidate: Trump focused on providing "digital and physical" security to U.S. Voters returning ballots via fax or email typically have to sign waivers acknowledging their votes won't remain secret as they're opened and counted. Voatz, by comparison, claims to keep its users' identities secret. The office will now bring the voting app to UOCAVA (Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act) voters in the state's 55 counties. Biometrics are also used for verification, Voatz notes.

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Voatz co-founder Nimit Sawhney told StateScoop earlier this year his company's app will not function if it detects malware on a device.

West Virginia is planning to roll out a blockchain voting app for its midterm elections in November. Clerks from almost all 55 of the state's counties gathered last month at a Morgantown hotel for a two-day cybersecurity training conference.

Even if the Voatz app is secure - something Schneider said she could not confirm because her organization has not vetted it - the "attack area is much broader" under mobile voting, meaning it creates far more opportunities for hacking and meddling.

Predictably, not everyone is happy about this - particularly in the wake of concerns about possible interference in the 2016 presidential elections.

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