West Virginia is making history as the first ever US state to offer online voting through blockchain technology, by the way of a new pilot program being tested by the West Virginia Secretary of State’s office. The pilot program is a joint venture between the Office of the Secretary of State of West Virginia, Voatz, Tusk/Montgomery Philanthropies, New America and the Blockchain Trust Accelerator, and is designed to allow deployed military members and their families to vote without being physically present in an upcoming Senate primary election in May.
Boston-based startup Voatz is providing the underlying technology, in which a voter interacts with a mobile app designed to do everything from verify a user’s identity via biometric tools, cast their votes from anywhere in the world, and provide an unparalleled level of transparency and accuracy with the hopes of improving participation and trust in voters. Thanks to blockchain and its immutable public ledger, voters can verify their votes and miscounts are essentially eliminated.
West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner hopes this new process is more efficient, calling the current traditional process “cumbersome to complete.” Establishing a process to better serve those serving their country a better means to vote was among Warner’s “top priorities” when he took office. Warner said about the project:
“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,” “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.”
Warner continued “West Virginia is taking the lead in providing safe, secure and accurate voting systems to encourage voter participation at every level.”
The Secretary of State’s office in West Virginia will consider a number of metrics such as participation and ease-of-use to determine if the pilot program is a success. If deemed successful, Warner and his team plan to expand the pilot program from only two counties, to all 55 of the state’s counties in the 2018 general election in November.