Polls closed in West Virginia’s primary election May 8, completing the first government-run, blockchain-supported vote in US history, ETHNews reported May 9. While most voters cast regular ballots, special voters in certain districts voted on a mobile blockchain-based platform.
The blockchain-based mobile voting platform, developed by Voatz, was only available to a select group of voters. Participants were deployed military members, other citizens eligible to vote absentee under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA), and their spouses and dependents. Participation was further limited to voters registered in two West Virginia counties, Harrison and Monongalia.
State electoral processes and organization are the purview of the Office of the Secretary of State. Mike Queen, communications director for West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner, said:
[The office of the Secretary believes] 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.”
The audit of the voting exercise will be performed by employees of Voatz, and the clerks representing Harrison and Monongalia counties. Other parties will also be invited to give feedback such as “interest groups here in West Virginia,” county clerks from non-participating jurisdictions, the state’s governor, and the Board of Public Works.
Following the audit, Secretary Warner will decide whether to implement the program statewide in the upcoming general elections in November. Queen predicts that Warner will only move ahead with statewide implementation if auditors of the trial-run agree that it is prudent to do so. Queen said that he expects Warner to make a decision by mid-July on whether to expand the program.
While Queen expresses hope for the system’s use in future elections, some experts remain skeptical regarding electronic voting, and Voatz’s solution in particular. University of South Carolina computer science professor Duncan Buell believes that the facial-recognition and fingerprint-scanning technologies the company employs to verify voter identities could be vulnerable to hacks.
Queen, however, said the Secretary’s office is “very encouraged so far today and we believe that [blockchain-based voting] is a real viable option.” He added that there “are a lot of other states who are asking about this mobile voting solution and who are also interested in it.”
The trial-run was first announced in March of this year. The decision was undertaken by Secretary Warner “…to improve accessibility and enhance confidence in our electoral system.”