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West Virginia Announces Blockchain Voting Pilot In Upcoming Election




Two counties in West Virginia have rolled out a blockchain-based platform with the aim of allowing certain absentee voters to cast ballots in this year’s primary election.

In West Virginia, a ballot has already been cast in what the secretary of state's office is calling the US's first blockchain-mediated vote.

Beginning on March 23 and continuing until May 8 (the date of the state's 2018 primary election), overseas military voters, other expatriates eligible under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA), and their dependents and spouses can use a "compatible Apple or Android mobile device" to access the blockchain-based voting application. Voters must possess an "approved, validated State or Federal ID."

The pilot project will be limited to Harrison and Monongalia counties. Mike Queen, the West Virginia secretary of state's deputy chief of staff and communications director, told ETHNews that because the two counties involved in the pilot are not very populous, the number of participants will be relatively low.

If successful, the program will be expanded to all of West Virginia for the 2018 general election.

A March 28 press release announcing the pilot indicates that it follows another test project, conducted in 2010, which allowed overseas military personnel to vote using a computer-based platform. According to Queen, secretary of State Mac Warner, who participated in that trial, came into office determined to find a less bureaucratic way for military voters to cast their ballots. It was not until discussions for the 2018 pilot were underway that a county clerk suggested expanding it to include non-military UOCAVA-eligible voters, he said.

A white paper relates that before the project's rollout, military personnel could only cast their absentee ballots via mail, fax, or email, leading to concerns that "their mail-in or faxed ballots may not be received in time, or may not be counted."

The first voter to use the new system was Secretary Warner's son, who is currently deployed in Italy. The younger Warner said of the experience:

"The registration for this application … included an ID verification process that matched me to my ID … When the ballot was made available, I just clicked through the names of the candidates. I hit 'vote' for the candidates I wanted to support. Then I used the thumb print Touch ID on my phone to verify who I was."

The voting platform, provided by the tech firm Voatz, has already been piloted by "universities, labor unions, state political parties, church groups and non-profits."

An earlier version of this article contained an estimate of the number of individuals who were eligible to participate in the program at the time of ETHNews's interview with Mike Queen. Queen later clarified that he had provided the figure as an "example" and that he could not vouch for its accuracy.

Adam Reese

Adam Reese is a Los Angeles-based writer interested in technology, domestic and international politics, social issues, infrastructure and the arts. Adam holds value in Ether, Bitcoin, and Monero.

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