The remote voting system via mobile device is a pilot project.
Almost 140 West Virginians living abroad in 29 counties have used mobile voting in order to participate in the 2018 midterm elections.
The statewide pilot project covers 24 of West Virginia’s 55 counties. It uses a variety of tech, including a combination of smartphones, facial recognition and blockchain to create a large-scale and secure method for West Virginians, including service members, Peace Corps volunteers, and other Americans living abroad to take part in elections.
State officials say that West Virginia is the first state in America to run this blockchain-based voting system at this scale. If the technology is adopted on a broader scale, the belief is that it has the potential to decrease long lines at the polls. Furthermore, by making it easier and more convenient for people to vote, more citizens might do it.
Blockchain technology helps to keep the mobile voting system secure.
To cast a ballot, eligible voters must first register through the Voatz app by uploading an image of photo ID, such as a driver’s license. The app proceeds to instruct them to submit a short video of their face.
From there, the voter’s iPhone or Android device’s facial recognition technology matches the video against their photo ID, while the personal information on their ID is matched to West Virginia’s voter registration database. Once the verification process is complete, voters can proceed with their selections and confirm their ballot by facial recognition or fingerprint.
Votes are stored on a private blockchain. This is a highly secure database where stored records are encrypted using complex computational algorithms. Only when the polls have closed is the database unlocked by county clerks to count votes.
“When they take the votes from the blockchain, it will immediately print onto a paper ballot — just like the same look and feel of what voters are physically voting with on Election Day,” says Hilary Braseth, Voatz’s director of product design, reported the Washington Post. “And then those paper ballots will be fed into the tabulating machines on the ground at the state level.”
While this pilot project seems to be working well so far, many security experts are concerned that the technology might not be ready for wide-scale use as it could contain vulnerabilities, which could risk the integrity of elections.
Since being introduced, the Voatz app mobile voting system has been used on a limited basis. The midterm elections are the systems biggest test yet.