Some voters with disabilities will be able to cast their ballots on smart phones using blockchain technology for the first time in a U.S. election on Tuesday. But while election officials and mobile voting advocates say the technology has the potential to increase access to the ballot box, election technology experts are raising serious security concerns about the idea. The mobile voting system, a collaboration between Boston-based tech company Voatz, nonprofit Tusk Philanthropies and the National Cybersecurity Center, has previously been used for some military and overseas voters during test pilots in West Virginia, Denver and Utah County, Utah. Now, Utah County is expanding its program to include voters with disabilities in its municipal general election as well. The idea, according to Bradley Tusk, the startup consultant and philanthropist who is funding the pilots, is to increase voter turnout.
West Virginia will provide a mobile blockchain voting option, in addition to absentee ballots, for overseas military service members in elections this November, after receiving audit results this week from a pilot program. It will be the first state to offer this technology to improve voting accessibility for deployed members of the military and their families, according to West Virginia's secretary of state. Eligible voters will be able to cast their ballots through a mobile application that uses blockchain technology, which stores data on a decentralized database, meaning there's no owner, allowing for more transparent transactions. Information is stored publicly, but to ensure privacy, West Virginia voters' personal information will remain anonymous. Most U.S. citizens vote in-person or by mail-in ballots.
Bradley Tusk has a plan to fix American democracy. A former high-level staffer for Chuck Schumer and Michael Bloomberg, among others, Tusk has recently been using his political wits to help tech companies sidestep red tape and clear regulatory hurdles. As he recounts in his new book, "The Fixer: My Adventures Saving Startups from Death by Politics," Tusk has--for better or for worse--convinced authorities across the country to let Uber operate in their cities, figured out how to get the San Jose City Council to allow on-demand home delivery for marijuana, and toppled regulations banning the sale of online homeowners and renters' insurance. When Uber, the first tech client of his fledgling consulting firm, didn't have enough cash to pay him, Tusk took half his compensation in equity. As a consequence, he said, "I just got more money than I ever expected to have."
When news hit this week that West Virginian military members serving abroad will become the first people to vote by phone in a major US election this November, security experts were dismayed. For years, they have warned that all forms of online voting are particularly vulnerable to attacks, and with signs that the midterm elections are already being targeted, they worry this is exactly the wrong time to roll out a new method. Experts who spoke to WIRED doubt that Voatz, the Boston-based startup whose app will run the West Virginia mobile voting, has figured out how to secure online voting when no one else has. At the very least, they are concerned about the lack of transparency. "From what is available publicly about this app, it's no different from sending voting materials over the internet," says Marian Schneider, president of the nonpartisan advocacy group Verified Voting.
West Virginia allowed residents to cast their vote in the 2018 midterm election using the smartphone app Voatz and thousands are expected to use the technology in this year's election. However, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology say the app'is so riddled with security issues that no one should be using it.' The vulnerabilities hidden in the technology give hackers the ability to alter, stop or expose how an individual users has voted. Researchers also uncovered that Voatz's use of a third-party vendor for voter identification and verification poses potential privacy issues for users. The experiment was conducted shortly after'inconsistencies' with an app that was supposed to track the results of the Democrat caucuses in Iowa threw the vote into chaos overnight.