West Virginia’s blockchain voting application for overseas military personnel and their families has been a resounding success, this according to an official announcement made by West Virginia Secretary of State, Andrew “Mac” Warner.
Earlier this year, Warner had announced that the mountain state was conducting trials of a blockchain based electoral application for mobiles, designed specifically for those serving in the military, as well as their families who are abroad. This was intended as a solution to issues such as poor voter turnout, late receipts, and voter anonymity; upon the conclusion of the trial and after four audits, Warner’s office declared the software to have no problems.
In an official announcement on 15 November, Warner praised a phenomenal voter turnout and presented the figures for the blockchain voting application, he wrote:
“Military and overseas voters in 24 West Virginia counties had, for the first time, an easy and hassle-free way to participate in this year’s General Election. Approximately 144 military and overseas West Virginians voted from 30 different countries using a mobile voting application. This is a first-in-the-nation project that allowed uniformed services members and overseas citizens to use a mobile application to cast a ballot secured by blockchain technology.”
Voter turnout among active service members is sluggish in the United States, according to the Election Assistance Commission, 13% (930,156) of the 7.7 million entitled overseas voters signed up to receive a ballot for 2016’s general election, despite already having “special provisions” which allow them to vote via email. From this figure, only 68.1% (633,593) of these ballots were returned.
Speaking with the Washington Post, Warner’s deputy chief of staff Michael Queen said that only two voters so far had experienced problems with the app, when prompted for thoughts on security, Queen commented that West Virginia has no intentions to extend this voting system beyond that of its overseas military population.
Adding, “Secretary Warner has never and will never advocate that this is a solution for mainstream voting,”
Earlier criticisms of the application were made by security experts such as Joseph Lorenzo Hall, who in August told CNN Business, “Mobile voting is a horrific idea. It’s internet voting on people’s horribly secured devices, over our horrible networks, to servers that are very difficult to secure without a physical paper record of the vote.”
On the contrary, a political science professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology credits those who went ahead with the project as “the bold ones”, adding “There is something to be said sometimes for small-scale pilots where we can learn the trade-offs,”
Around the World
Voting on the blockchain had gradually caught the attention of the world, with nations such as Russia and Japan joining in on the experiment.
In August, National Public Monitoring (NOM) a Russian non-profit organization announced the pilot of a blockchain based voting project. Not many details have been shared yet, but the project was declared to a congress of 300 representatives including the “Corps” for Clean Elections.
In Japan, a southern city named Tsukuba revealed that it will be using a pre-tested blockchain system for local residents to vote on local programs.
According to other reports, blockchain voting is a tool for presenting the most accurate poll results, which in some areas of the world could be vital for democracy.
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