West Virginia Residents Vote with Blockchain Mobile App

West Virginia, one of the 52 states which make up the USA, had in September made public its plans to utilize a blockchain-based voting app; a system it succeeded in implementing at the just concluded midterm elections.

The blockchain app developed by Voatz, is the first to be used by the state after an initial testing in two counties during the primaries earlier this year. After a successful test phase with about 13 participants each from these counties, the app was put to use in the recent election with more participants; about 150 from 24 counties.

How It Works

The Voatz app is available for public downloads on the Google Play Store or Apple App Store.

Analyzing its process, users first have to register their account; providing details such as phone numbers and an 8-digit pin code, next is a two-factor authentication to ensure authenticity of votes and prevent accounts from being hacked or duplicated.

Users then proceed to identity verification which requires a photo of their driver’s license, an in-app instructional video to shoot and send video of their faces (while blinking their eyes to indicate a live person ). This facial verification uses tech just like the Apple Face ID to verify if the photo and video images are the same from the state’s voter registration database.

After due registration and bio-metrics verification through Face ID or finger prints, users can then proceed to voting proper.

Arguments On the Blockchain-based Voting App

Explaining its stance, the state government described its adoption of the initiative as a move to provide ease of voting solution for people who lack access to desktop computers with the believe that every eligible adult owns a smartphone. Also, the West Virginia government makes a case for overseas voters and military personnel in foreign missions who have no access to direct ballots ; while also emphasizing the need to ditch the paper ballots system.

For observers and enthusiasts, the blockchain voting option provides a better upgrade to the current vulnerable paper ballot process; even as others suggested a simpler verification process. However, some antagonists of the app have raised questions on possible compromised data and hacks stating that the blockchain model still has a long road before final adoption.

Speaking on its utility, West Virginia’s Secretary of State Mac Warner remarked:

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. He continued, It’s not trendy. It’s the wave of the future.

A full review of the blockchain-based voting records will be conducted by West Virginia’s Secretary of State, with a subsequent report on its performance to be released next week.

On a general note, despite the need for improvement and a 100% decentralization (as the voting data passes through Voatz own servers), the app is a blueprint for further use cases and development in this regard; especially as calls for more fraud resistant voting options increase in the United States and globally.

What are your thoughts on implementing a blockchain-based voting system in Nigeria and Africa?

NOTE: Sierra Leone, Switzerland and Japan have all experimented the blockchain-based voting under varying platforms.

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