West Virginia will use blockchain smartphone voting in 2018 midterms

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Mac Warner, West Virginia's secretary of state, had said that he would consider using the voting app throughout the state if its pilot version worked effectively in both counties.

To use the app, voters will have to submit a photo of their government issued ID, as well as, um, a selfie video.

Warner also clarified some misconception that the app was going to replace traditional balloting, by saying it was an option and troops can still "cast paper ballots if they like". Members of the military will be able to cast their ballots using an app, with voting data recorded on a blockchain.

Despite Russian Hacking Horror Stories US State Looks at Blockchain Voting App for Midterms
West Virginia to pioneer mobile phone voting in midterm elections

Warner's office said four audits of the technology surfaced no problems but not everyone is convinced of its security. However, election officials have left a final decision on its use in November up to each county in the state. The percentage might be different as of March this year, but given the small number of West Virginians serving overseas, the new voting system will hardly benefit a large number of people.

State officials have already tested the platform in a couple of counties during the primaries that took place earlier in the year.

However, chief technologist at the Center for Democracy and Technology Joseph Lorenzo Hall told CNN that "mobile voting is a horrific idea", and the president of the election integrity watchdog group Verified Voting, Marian K. Schneider, added that mobile voting could create "far more opportunities for hacking and meddling,". Hall described it as Internet voting on people's horribly secured devices, over terrible networks to servers that are very hard to secure without a physical paper record of the vote.

The software underlying the app was developed by technology startup Voatz that has recently received about $2.4 million in funding.

While Voatz co-founder and CEO Nimit S. Sawhney sees the state as a springboard to broader use of the voting app, tech experts are not much in favor of mobile voting.

Charles Stewart III, who teaches political science at MIT, said that although he doesn't consider mobile voting ready for "prime time", he credited West Virginia for being "the bold ones" testing the technology.

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

Not everyone however, is supportive of mobile voting.