West Virginia’s New Smartphone Ballots
CHARLESTON – September 27, 2018
West Viriginia authorized 24 counties to vote via mobile phones. This is the first time in our nation's history citizens are allowed to vote over a telecommunication system. Supporters say it will make voting easier for military deployed overseas.
"After researching previously available options, the Secretary’s team identified that most electronic ballot delivery technology required access to a desktop computer, printer and scanner, all of which present significant barriers to overseas voters, especially those in combat zones or engaged in covert operations," the W. Virginia Secretary of State's office explained in a press release this week. The state is partnering with a Boston, Massachusetts-based company Voatz, Inc.
Voatz’ press release states, "Voatz has developed a secure mobile voting application that allows voters to receive, vote, and return their ballots electronically. The application also utilizes blockchain technology to store electronically submitted ballots until election night, and requires a heightened standard of identity verification for users than traditional absentee ballot processes. This project is unprecedented in United States history, being the first mobile voting application and first use of blockchain technology in a federal election."
Meanwhile, many experts warn of possible security breaches. They argue that no only are smartphones vulnerable, but that, overall, any direct-recording electronic (DRE) voting system presents a liability. DRE ballots can be tampered with, and the DRE system can be hacked by Russians, Chinese or others. Election results can be changed without leaving a trace. Without a hardcopy paper record of votes, there’s no way to tell if an election was altered, and no way to correct potential errors.
Georgia is among five states, along with more than 300 counties in eight other states, that exclusively use touchscreen voting machines that provide no paper record. But Georgia legislators, under pressure by citizen groups, are considering a transition back to a paper-based voting system in time for the 2020 presidential election. While Georgia continues to negotiate with touchscreen machines located at conventional voting places, West Virginia decisively adopted a radically new and untested technology. Maybe state leaders did not do this out of love for the troops or for technological innovation, but because they know it can allow them a desired result regardless of how the voters vote?