The are various types of barriers facing voters including photo ID requirements, voting booth availability, the flexibility of poll hours, and the availability of time off from work with pay for voting. Some states even have financial penalties for the violation of deadlines or rules related to registration lists. But the process of voting for overseas military members has become a particularly consistent headache for states during an era when so many are deployed in places as far afield as Afghanistan, Germany and South Korea.
In an article by Andrew Kenney for the Denver Post, we get a look at how the city of Denver, Colorado is experimenting with a new way to make voter access easy for military voters and other Denverites abroad. The plan is to use technologies developed by the start-up blockchain democracy company Voatz that allow people to vote securely using an app on their smartphone.
Voatz, based in Boston, Massachusetts, has become perhaps the most widely known blockchain voting startup company. Voatz celebrated the success this year of the United States first ever use of a blockchain voting system in the state of West Virginia. That system also was used by military members overseas and was deemed enough of a success that plans are now being discussed to use the system for a second time in West Virginia. If the current West Virginia Secretary of State has anything to say, it will be. Take a look at this excerpt from and article by the Associated Press from last month:
West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner says he’s hoping to offer mobile voting for military and overseas voters again in the 2020 elections. Warner’s office said the state has successfully launched the nation’s first such mobile voting pilot.
The office said in a news release Thursday that in last November’s election, 144 registered West Virginia voters from 21 counties cast ballots from 31 different countries. Warner said he wasn’t able to vote when he was deployed in 2012 and 2014 because of unreliable mail service and alternative transmission methods.
The West Virginia experiment is being conducted using technology developed by the Tusk/Montgomery Philanthropies in partnership with the New America and the Blockchain Trust Accelerator, and is connected with Voatz. Voatz was able to raise 2.2 million from the capital markets to fund the West Virginia project, reflecting the popularity of blockchain technology companies on Wall Street and beyond. Blockchain of course is the same tech behind the rise in digital currencies like Bitcoin that have had a revolutionary impact on international financial markets.
The Voatz voting app does use very impressive security that is unusually thorough for an app. You need to pass face identification, upload your fingerprints, make a 10-second video of yourself and send a picture of a valid photo ID. However, the Denver Post article by Andrew Kenney is much recommended because it offers an unusually clear assessment of blockchains benefits and, perhaps more importantly, its limitations. This was expertly explored in the article:
After they’re submitted, votes are stored with blockchain technology, according to Voatz. In other words, they’re distributed across multiple servers in a way that is supposedly unchangeable. It’s the same idea behind bitcoin and other cryptocurrency.
But blockchain also comes with another threat: If attackers ever break the encryption on Voatz’s voting files, they could reveal how people voted, according to Maurice Turner, senior technologist for the Center for Democracy & Technology. It could take years or decades, but sooner or later it will happen, he said.
The Denver Post has the full article. There are several venture capital companies that are trying to develop blockchain technology for future elections and Voatz is just one. But it’s a space to watch. A tutorial on how the Voatz app works can be seen here:
This video features the announcement that followed Voatz’s $2.2 Million fundraising:
Is internet voting an option, even with blockchain technology? Don’t forget to leave your comment below!