US West Virginia State Offers Blockchain Voting to Overseas Troops

A blockchain-based app will let overseas West Virginian troops vote in the upcoming midterm election.

Military personnel from the US state of West Virginia serving overseas will be able to vote via a blockchain-based app in the midterm elections in November, CNN reported on Monday. However, the news has raised concerns about possible security breaches and the actual necessity of the voting system.

After a successful pilot launched in March, West Virginia has decided to allow its overseas troops to cast their ballot through the smartphone application Voatz. Each county within the state will though make the final decision whether to use the app.

The blockchain voting option comes at a time when bureaucracy has drawn the US to nearly the bottom of global voter turnout, as CNN noted in a video. Key issues are the lack of both automatic elections registration and voting in the early morning hours (in as many as 13 states) and the fact that elections take place on Tuesdays.

However, the remote election system has caused alarm, as smartphones cannot be secured well enough.

“Mobile voting is a horrific idea,” according to Joseph Lorenzo Hall, chief technologist at the Center for Democracy and Technology.

Marian K. Schneider, president of the watchdog group Verified Voting, also rejected the idea, worried by potential hacks and the lack of a paper trail of the vote. A lot of Twitter users disapproved of the new voting system as well.

Mac Bowser (@ChiefBowser) added another aspect to the discussion, claiming the blockchain voting platform will be used only by a few people.

As of March 31, 196 West Virginians were serving on active duty, fewer than in any other US state, according to statistics by the Defense Manpower Data Center. The West Virginia figures do not include overseas troops, yet as per data by Pew Research Center, the US troops deployed abroad in 2016 amounted to 15% of the active duty personnel. The percentage might be different as of March this year, but given the small number of West Virginians serving abroad, the new voting system will hardly benefit a large number of people.