West Virginia to Introduce Smartphone Voting for Midterm Elections

By M. Russo — Published August 07, 2018

West Virginia to Introduce Smartphone Voting for Midterm Elections

West Virginia will be the first state to offer voting via smartphone. This option will specifically be for West Virginians serving in the military overseas. West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner said of the move, "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."

Voatz is the Boston-based company that developed the voting app. This app uses a combination of a photo of the voter's government-issued identification along with a selfie-style video uploaded to the app. Facial recognition software in the app will determine if the photo and video show the same person, and if approved, voters can then submit their ballots via the app.

Despite the photos associated with the time of casting the ballot, the company says that ballots are anonymized and recorded via blockchain technology. This new voting technology has already been tested in private elections, such as for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Officials also tested the app in two counties during the primary election that took place earlier this year. State officials note that the final decision on whether to use the app will be left up to each county. Even in counties that decide to use the app, troops can still opt to submit a paper ballot instead.

source: shutterstock

Some critics are voicing concern over mobile voting, particularly in light of security concerns regarding Russia interfering in the 2016 presidential election. The US intelligence community has reported recent findings that Russia is continuing to interfere in the democratic process for this year's midterms. Dan Coats, Director of National Intelligence, said just last week, "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."

Marian K. Schneider, president of the election integrity watchdog group Verified Voting, said "The short answer is no," when asked whether she thought mobile voting is a good idea. She believes there are too many opportunities for hacking and notes concern about the lack of a paper trail. Joseph Lorenzo Hall, the chief technologist at the Center for Democracy and Technology, said "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."

Voatz, as well as Warner, have both insisted that the app is secure. Charles Stewart III, a political science professor at MIT, said that West Virginia is being bold with this initiative, and "There is something to be said sometimes for small-scale pilots where we can learn the trade-offs."


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