West Virginia Launches Blockchain-Based Mobile Voting Pilot

Voatz helped the state pf West Virginia launch the first mobile voting app pilot for two counties in West Virginia.
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Boston-based voting technology startup Voatz is helping West Virginia pilot the country’s first blockchain-based mobile voting platform for overseas military.

CHARLESTON, WEST VIRGINIA — Secretary of State Mac Warner announced the state has launched a secure military mobile voting application for West Virginia’s May 8th Primary Election available to all eligible Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) voters in Harrison County and Monongalia County.

Registered and qualified military voters that are currently deployed from participating counties are now able to vote on the secure mobile application and will continue being able to vote until polls are closed at 7:30 p.m. EST on Primary Election Day on May 8th. All that is needed for qualified, registered military personnel to cast their ballot is a compatible Apple or Android mobile device and an approved, validated State or Federal ID.

Boston-based Voatz designed the mobile voting platform using a decentralized electronic ledger system, or blockchain. Blockchain-based mobile voting meets urgent challenges in election administration because it adds “security, transparency and trust” to the system, according to the project whitepaper.

Making It Easy for Overseas Military to Vote

The current absentee process for West Virginia military voters who are currently deployed can be cumbersome to complete. Finding solutions to insure military personnel are able to vote has been one of Warner’s priorities since taking office 14 months ago.

A 23-year veteran of the U.S. Army, Secretary Warner deployed to countries all over the world. He knows firsthand how cumbersome it can be for military personnel to vote and was thrilled in 2010 when he was able to vote via a test program on a desktop computer.  That same election, his daughter, then Army 1st Lt. Lisa Warner, also voted via computer commenting, “All Soldiers should be able to vote that easily,” Lisa said.

Our military service personnel fight every day across the globe to protect our way of life. They deserve to vote as much as anyone, and we owe it to them to make the process as easy as possible,” said Secretary Warner.  “Whether a Soldier is without mail service in the mountains of Afghanistan, or a Sailor is in a submarine under the polar icecap, they deserve the opportunity to participate easily in our democracy. They should have a voice in choosing who sends them into harm’s way.”

Secure Mobile Voting a Priority

To improve accessibility and enhance confidence in our electoral system, Secretary Warner authorized his Elections Division staff to pursue a secure mobile voting pilot project for the 2018 Primary Election, improving on the test program in 2010. The primary goal of this project is to take advantage of technological advances and offer the most secure military mobile voting solution possible that is accessible, verifiable, transparent, and easy to use.

“West Virginia is taking the lead in providing safe, secure and accurate voting systems to encourage voter participation at every level,” Warner said. “We’re working hard to increase the level of confidence citizens have in our election process. Increased confidence results in increased participation.”

The secure mobile voting process for military and UOCAVA voters under this pilot project uses the most secure technology available for voter and ballot verification, as well as encryption for transmission of information to ensure privacy. This utilization of secure technology in West Virginia for transmission of a ballot is the first application in the United States. It improves on the previous version by providing secret ballot tabulation, something not possible back in 2010.

Mailed-in or faxed absentee ballots do not ensured anonymity, nor do they always arrive on time for voter tabulation, according to the white paper.

Easy-to-Use Mobile Voting Application

The first active user of the mobile voting application was Scott Warner, son of Secretary Warner. Scott Warner is currently registered to vote at his home in Monongalia County, but currently is deployed in Italy.

“The registration for this application was very easy to maneuver. It included an ID verification process that matched me to my ID. That gave me confidence that this mobile voting process was secure,” Scott Warner said.  “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. That was it. Pretty slick!”

To qualify for the program, an overseas military voter, spouse or dependent must first apply for the special absentee status by submitting a Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) indicating the preference to receive their voting materials via email or online to the county clerk’s office. Once the voter’s FPCA card is confirmed, the voter will receive detailed instructions on the use of the application prior to receipt of a ballot. The ballot will be sent for the Primary when the voter’s identity is confirmed in the application.

Review and download a white paper about the project:

West Virginia Secure Military Mobile Voting Solution by Ed Praetorian on Scribd

Access the original announcement on the state’s website.

Learn more about Voatz technologies:

Explore our previous coverage of mobile voting technologies:

Text and Facebook Voter Registration

About the author

Andrea Fox

Andrea Fox

Andrea Fox is Editor of EfficientGov.com and Senior Editor at Praetorian Digital. She is based in Massachusetts.