According to reports from CNN, the US state of West Virginia is set to become the first in the country to cast federal election ballots via a blockchain voting app.
The move, which has been branded by some computer security experts as a “horrific idea” comes on the heels of a federal indictment that outlined Russian attempts to hack the US voting infrastructure during the 2016 presidential race.
Russian attempts to interfere
United States intelligence agencies have recently warned of possible Russian attempts to interfere with the upcoming midterm elections.
Despite these warnings, West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner intends to press ahead with plans to offer West Virginians who are serving overseas in the military with the opportunity to vote via a smartphone app created by Boston company Voatz.
Mac Warner commented that “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.”
Tests were run on the Voatz blockchain voting application in two counties earlier this year during the primary election, and after four audits of various components that included its blockchain and cloud infrastructure, it was revealed that no problems were found.
Warner was quick to point out that he’s not looking to replace traditional voting methods with the blockchain voting app, but sees it as a viable alternative for those who wish to use it.
Mobile voting is a horrific idea
As you can imagine, there are some dissenting voices out there, and one came in the form of Joseph Lorenzo Hall, who is the chief technologist at the Centre for Democracy and Technology who told CNN that “Mobile voting is a horrific idea.”
“It’s internet voting on people’s horribly secured devices, over our horrible networks, to servers that are very difficult to secure without a physical paper record of the vote.”
President of the election integrity watchdog organization Verified Voting, Marian K Schneider was straight to the point when asked if she thought mobile voting via the blockchain voting app was a good idea when she said “the short answer is no.”
Claiming that the “attack area is much broader” using the blockchain voting app, she believes it offers more opportunities for hacking and interference.
The bold ones
It should be pointed out that Mac Warner is not someone who takes security lightly. Only last month he was the recipient of praise for his efforts to secure the state’s voting infrastructure from a senior Department of Homeland Security official, and he’s even gone as far as recruiting the National Guard in an attempt to battle election interference.
Political Science lecturer at MIT, Charles Stewart III, commented that he doesn’t quite believe that blockchain voting via the Voatz app is ready for “prime time,” but he believes that West Virginia deserves credit for being “the bold ones” who have stepped up and made the first move.
“There is something to be said sometimes for small-scale pilots where we can learn the trade-offs,” he concluded.
It’s certainly going to be interesting to see how the blockchain voting system fares come November.
A lot of eyes will be on the state of West Virginia.
Lover of all things crypto, blockchain and AI, professional tech scribe & part of the editorial team at Crypto Disrupt.