West Virginia has become the first ever U.S. state to offer internet voting supported by blockchain technology. The West Virginia government is testing the technology as part of a pilot program, so that deployed members of the military and their dependents have the opportunity to vote in the upcoming Senate primary election on May 8th, without actually being physically present at traditional ballots.
A statement made on the Secretary of State’s website calls the current process for absentee military voters, “cumbersome to complete,” and hopes this blockchain-based solution will alleviate any issues. The report further states that finding solutions to allow military members to participate in voting more easily was among West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner’s top priorities since taking office.
“Our military service personnel fight every day across the globe to protect our way of life. They deserve to vote as much as anyone, and we owe it to them to make the process as easy as possible,” “Whether a Soldier is without mail service in the mountains of Afghanistan, or a Sailor is in a submarine under the polar icecap, they deserve the opportunity to participate easily in our democracy. They should have a voice in choosing who sends them into harm’s way.”
The technology powered by Boston-based startup Voatz works by recording votes on the blockchain. A voter’s identity is verified using biometric tools such as a fingerprint or facial scan. Not only does this mean that miscount potential is eliminated, but voters can see their vote directly on the blockchain, and the vote can be cast from anywhere in the world with internet access. The move makes voting as transparent and accurate as possible, with the hope of increasing both trust and participation.
“West Virginia is taking the lead in providing safe, secure and accurate voting systems to encourage voter participation at every level,” said Secretary Warner. “We’re working hard to increase the level of confidence citizens have in our election process. Increased confidence results in increased participation.”
Warner and his team will gauge success via a number of metrics, including voter participation. But Warner is also concerned about the app’s user-friendliness, stating that “Not only are we looking forward to military voters participating in this pilot project, we’re asking for their input on the user-friendly nature of the mobile application itself.”
The pilot program, which is a joint venture between the Office of the Secretary of State of West Virginia, Voatz, Tusk/Montgomery Philanthropies, New America and the Blockchain Trust Accelerator, is limited to voters in just two counties – Harrison and Monongalia County – for the time being. However, according to Warner, the plan is to expand across all 55 of the state’s counties during the 2018 general election in November if the program is deemed a success.