This election season, the state of West Virginia implemented a blockchain-based voting app for the first time. The app, created by a company called Voatz, was first tested in two counties during the primaries earlier this year. After a successful test, it was used during the midterm election this past week at a wider scale. StateScoop reported that as few as 13 people used the app to vote in county primaries, a number that grew to nearly 150 people voting from 24 out of the 55 counties in the general midterm. A majority of these voters are currently deployed military members or Peace Corps volunteers.
The process for placing the ballot is simple but lengthy. The Voatz app is available for download for anyone on Apple’s App Store or the Google Play Store. When registering an account, users must provide their phone numbers and an eight-digit pin code, adding extra precautions like two-factor authentication in order to prevent accounts from being hacked or votes being tampered with. Then, users must authenticate their identities in three separate ways. First, they must submit a photo of their driver’s license. Then, they follow along with an in-app instructional video to shoot and send a video of their faces. Facial recognition technologies, like Apple’s Face ID, are used to verify that the face in the video is the same and the account is registered in the state’s voter registration base.
After the account is registered, users can submit their votes through the app so long as their identity is verified with technology like Face ID or by scanning their fingerprints.
The votes are then printed out onto a paper ballot. The paper ballots look like high school Scantron tests, and are fed through a machine similar to the one educators use for those multiple choice tests.
West Virginia’s Secretary of State Mac Warner told StateScoop, “Blockchain is being used in everything from health care to transportation, pretty much all the different ways high-tech solutions to the problems Americans are facing.”
“It’s not trendy. It’s the wave of the future,” Warner said.
The secretary of state’s office will be conducting a full review of the blockchain-based voting records, and after the full audit is completed, will be releasing a report next week detailing its performance.