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09 August 2018, 08:42 | Casey Mitchell
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West Virginia will offer troops serving overseas a chance to vote using a mobile app in November. There's a catch, though. CNN notes that the West Virginia will limit the use of the mobile application mainly to troops now overseas.
Blockchain enthusiasts promote distributed ledger technology as a secure way to make voting easier for deployed members of the US military and other Americans living overseas.
The move, which has been branded by some computer security experts as a "horrific idea" comes on the heels of a federal indictment that outlined Russian attempts to hack the USA voting infrastructure during the 2016 presidential race.
But West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner and Voatz, the company that developed maintain the app is secure, CNNnoted. Those who will use this app to vote will first have to register by taking a photo of their government-issued identification in addition to a selfie-style video of their face which will be uploaded through the app. Following this verification, voters would be able to cast their ballot using the Voatz app. Ballots are anonymized and recorded on a blockchain.
It is not a replacement for traditional voting methods and troops will still be allowed to cast paper absentee ballots, Warner said. The Federal Voting Assistance Program, a Pentagon initiative aimed at helping deployed troops and civilian expats send ballots back home, estimated that only 4 percent of 2.6 million eligible overseas voters participated in the 2014 midterm election, including 334 West Virginians.
Voatz is a pioneer in the blockchain voting and mobile balloting niche.
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However, chief technologist at the Center for Democracy and Technology Joseph Lorenzo Hall told CNN that "mobile voting is a horrific idea", and the president of the election integrity watchdog group Verified Voting, Marian K. Schneider, added that mobile voting could create "far more opportunities for hacking and meddling,".
Michael L. Queen, Warner's deputy chief of staff, says the final decisions will be left to individual counties on whether they want to use the app for the election.
"It's internet voting on people's horribly secured devices, over our terrible networks, to servers that are very hard to secure without a physical paper record of the vote", Hall said.
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