This news is coming to you from the MIT Technology Review:
Military voters stationed overseas will be able to cast their votes for the 2020 presidential election via a mobile app that uses a private blockchain. Election security experts, avert your eyes.
Why would you do that? Donald Kersey, West Virginia’s elections director, tells the crypto news website LongHash that he believes the app, created by a startup called Voatz, can enhance participation by overseas voters. Turnout among this group is very low, in part because the process of receiving a ballot and securely returning it on time is often not straightforward.
This is the rationale behind the decision by a number of states to allow overseas military voters to return their ballots via e-mail. West Virginia apparently is of the mind that Voatz’s private blockchain will make this kind of online voting more secure. The state first piloted the program during the 2018 midterms.
The backlash: But many election security experts oppose online voting of any kind, blockchain or not, and came out strongly against West Virginia’s 2018 pilot.
See full story here. It is hard to get a grasp on the slow creep forward of the utilization of any new voting technology, especially when technologies are new and when they are unusual. The use of the digital “distributed, decentralized, public ledger” known as blockchain technology has been spreading in many industries. Slowly, experiment by experiment, there have been attempts at testing how blockchain’s unique characteristics can be taken advantage of in the administration of elections. Limited, local initiatives have shown that blockchain may have a real role to play.
One interesting new look at the changes underway comes from Phil Goldstein at StateTech Magazine who recently published an article about how blockchain technology is working its way into America, finding a role in several different aspects of election administration and beyond. From the article:
Blockchain technology, in and of itself, cannot replace legacy systems for databases, record keeping or transaction management, but it can enhance such systems, experts say. Blockchain voting is also getting more attention, though cybersecurity experts are skeptical about it and it has not been tried in the United States on a large scale yet.
Most state government officials are still in a wait-and-see mode about the technology, though blockchain use cases continue to proliferate. According to a 2017 National Association of State CIOs report, 63 percent of those surveyed were still investigating blockchain in state government with informal discussions, 26 percent said there were no discussions of blockchain at that time and 5 percent had adopted blockchain technology in support of some state government services.