The polls closed for West Virginia‘s primary election, completing the first government-run and blockchain-based vote in the history of the United States. Although the majority of voters cast regular ballots, there were exceptions for special voters in a couple of counties, who were allowed to vote on a blockchain-powered mobile application.
Few voters were expected to trial the blockchain voting technology, as it was limited to deployed military officers and other Americans, eligible to vote under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) as well as their family members. Furthermore, voters from only 2 of the 55 West Virginia counties were able to use the platform.
Nonetheless, it seems that this is a first of many blockchain-run elections in West Virginia, as Mike Queen, communications director for West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner, claimed that, “Blockchain does provide a heightened level of security on this type of mobile voting app. We’re genuinely hoping that will allow this type of a mobile app to be made available in the future – as early perhaps as our general election – to military voters.”
Voatz, the company that developed the voting platform, will conduct its audit, alongside the officials from Harrison and Monongalia counties. Provided the audit is successful in proving there were no major faults in the voting system, the secretary of state might push the system‘s implementation across all 55 counties. However, even though Mr. Warner has the authority to make such a decision, he will most likely consult other officials and implement the blockchain voting system only with their blessing.
According to statistics from the general election of 2016, over 200,000 UOCAVA ballots that were sent to voters, did not return. Providing an alternative and much more user-friendly solution based on distributed ledger technology would surely reduce this number, quite possibly by a significant margin.
Despite the optimism, surrounding the voting trial, there were skeptical voices as well. Several local news outlets criticized the app and University of South Carolina computer science professor Duncan Buell pointed out numerous potential issues with Voatz‘s platform. According to him, the facial-recognition and fingerprint-scanning technologies that are used to identify voters could be prone to hacker attacks.
However, Mr. Queen remains optimistic about the potential for the blockchain-powered app, affirming that, “We’re very encouraged so far today and we believe that [blockchain-based voting] is a real viable option“. He went on to add that a lot of other states have already inquired about the voting solution and are interested in using it in their own elections.
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