American troops that are based overseas will be able to vote in the November 2018 federal elections, over a blockchain-based mobile platform.

The new platform, named “Voatz” will utilise facial recognition software to match each voter with their government-issued ID and allow them to cast their vote without having to set foot in the state. Once the users’ identity has been validated, they will be able to cast their ballot instantly through the app, with the vote being made anonymous and recorded on the blockchain.

Increasing voter engagement

Founded in Boston, Voatz is a start-up that brings together blockchain tech with internet-based coding and the programme was created to increase voting engagement and the low turnout in local elections.

Mac Warner, the Secretary of State for West Virginia said:

“There is nobody that deserves the right to vote more than the guys that are out there, and the women that are out there, putting their lives on the line for us.”

Warner also explained that the new voting mechanism would not be replacing traditional voting methods any time soon, stating that troops still had the option to use paper and postal ballots if they wish.

A successful pilot was completed

Earlier in the year, a successful pilot of the Voatz system was run with deployed troops and their families that hailed from the counties of Harrison and Monongalia. It has also emerged that four audits were completed of various components of the platform, including its cloud and blockchain infrastructure, and that no issues were found.

Co-founder of Voatz, Nimit Sawhney said in an interview that they have been working to reconnect reluctant voters by ensuring that the platform is accessible to all, regardless of the users socioeconomic status or geographic location.

“Aside from major government-issued IDs such as driver’s licenses, state IDs or passports, Voatz has experience using the 10 different kinds of official documents for the purposes of verifying a voter’s identity,” said Sawhney.

A political scientist at MIT, Charles Stewart III has praised the state of West Virginia for its forward-thinking to give this technology a trial, despite his belief that the concept is not quite ready for mainstream and total adoption.

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

Whilst considerable hype has been building around using blockchain for in-state voting, there are still some that are cynical of its potential.

Chief Technologist at the Centre for Democracy and Technology, Joseph Lorenzo Hall stated that he believes that mobile voting is a bad idea, and Mark Schneider, president of Verified Voting, echoed these sentiments when asked if he thought it was a good idea.

Ultimately, the decision whether to utilise such technology will be left up to the discretion of each state and it remains to be seen whether any other jurisdictions will be bold enough to follow in the footsteps of West Virginia.


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