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Va. to Allow Troops Overseas to Vote in Midterms by Mobile Phones

09 August 2018

To vote, users must first register by taking a photo of their government-issued ID and a selfie-style video of their face.

Voatz, a cybersecurity company based in Boston, Massachusetts, developed the blockchain-based voting software.

"There is nobody that deserves the right to vote any more than the guys that are out there, and the women that are out there, putting their lives on the line for us", Warner said. The Federal Voting Assistance Program, a Pentagon initiative aimed at helping deployed troops and civilian expats send ballots back home, estimated that only 4 percent of 2.6 million eligible overseas voters participated in the 2014 midterm election, including 334 West Virginians.

But Schneider also suggested a ballot cast on Voatz could be susceptible if the voter's device has already been corrupted.

Still, state officials will leave a final decision on using the app in November to each county, Michael L. Queen, Warner's deputy chief of staff, told CNN. The pilot project has gone well and now, the app is set to be used by soldiers around the world who vote in the state to elect a senator.

Tests were run on the Voatz blockchain voting application in two counties earlier this year during the primary election, and after four audits of various components that included its blockchain and cloud infrastructure, it was revealed that no problems were found. This isn't meant to replace traditional balloting and troops will be able to cast paper ballots instead if they so prefer. CNN notes that the West Virginia will limit the use of the mobile application mainly to troops now overseas.

Not everyone shares Warner's enthusiasm.

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Joseph Lorenzo Hall, chief technologist at Center for Democracy and Technology, said that it was "a frightful idea".

"It's internet voting on people's horribly secured devices, over our terrible networks, to servers that are very hard to secure without a physical paper record of the vote", Hall said.

"There's no way to check people don't have malware in the phones they're using", she said.

Charles Stewart III, a political scientist at MIT, credits West Virginia for being bold enough to trial the technology, even though he doesn't yet believe the Voatz app is ready for "prime time".

"There is something to be said sometimes for small-scale pilots where we can learn the trade-offs", he concluded.

Do you like the idea of voting via mobile app?

Va. to Allow Troops Overseas to Vote in Midterms by Mobile Phones