With recent indictments of 12 Russian agents for the roles they played in tampering with the 2016 presidential campaign, it is no surprise that blockchain has found its way into the voting process. The underlying cryptography of blockchain, combined with its ability to allow transparency into any step of a transactional process, makes it an ideal solution for digital age voting. With blockchain, any tampering and its source can be traced, making it a powerful underlying technology for fraud-free voting. History has proven that voting has had its issues and inaccuracies. Whether that be malfunctioning voting machines, random printing errors, or even vote miscounts, voting has proven security issues, which blockchain can fix.
Pilot Program in West Virginia
The State of West Virginia announced that if its two-county pilot program is a success, mobile blockchain voting for overseas residents will be instituted across the state. According to CNN, “In May, West Virginia became the first state to use blockchain in a federal election. A limited number of absentee military, or Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act, voters used a blockchain-based mobile application. This was intended to be safer and more convenient than mailing in an absentee paper ballot.” Traditionally voters who are expatriates have to request absentee ballots by mail and then submit them. The two-step process isn’t always efficient. In fact, in 2016, the Federal Voting Assistance Program concluded that 16% of active-duty U.S. military personnel who requested ballots never got them. Donald Kersey, Elections Director for the West Virginia Secretary of State’s office, stated that if the pilot results are as expected, then the platform will be used in the upcoming November general election, giving all counties the opportunity to participate.
West Virginia/Voatz Partnership
In order to get the system implemented, West Virginia worked with Voatz. Voatz is a mobile election voting tool and platform, which is secured via smart biometrics, allowing secure real time ID verification on the blockchain. From the words of CEO of Voatz, Nimit Sawhney, “Let’s say you found a way to tamper with the most recent transaction, you have to tamper with everything before it, and remain undetected, before the next vote comes in. You would need to do it in a fraction of a second.” Pertaining to outside attacks Sawhney continues, “even with the most powerful computer they have, it would take 25 years to hack one vote.” Working with Voatz, West Virginia even requires military voters to verify themselves first with both military ID, and facial recognition. Once their votes are cast via smartphone, the votes are immediately stored on the blockchain.
Although Clabby Analytics believes we are far from the US Federal Government implementing blockchain as a universal foundational layer for voting, we do believe West Virginia’s efforts are compelling enough to get other states thinking about the structure of their voting processes. A paper-based system has so many more inherent risks and is error prone. In today’s digital age, with solution platforms such as blockchain and smartphones securely connecting people to the internet for a wide variety of purposes, voting inefficiencies need to be fixed and the system improved.
Newscasters and politicians are still focused on the hacked presidential elections two years ago. Rather than pointing fingers and playing the blame game, doesn’t it make more sense to repair the inefficiencies of our current systems, improving the process so that this doesn’t happen again? With improved facial recognition software, IoT devices, and blockchain, there are many tools now available to support this effort. Let’s step back and take a look at what’s happening in West Virginia and use the results of this effort to advocate for changes in other states and ultimately, in Washington DC.