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 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."
West Virginia could soon make it easier for people with disabilities vote in the 2020 presidential election. State administrators plan to sign a bill that will require counties to provide these individuals with a type of online ballot-marking device that can be used with a smartphone. West Virginia's election official is leaning towards adopting the smartphone app Voatz, which is what was used to allow troops overseas to vote in elections. However, cybersecurity experts are weary about using the technology and others like it, saying it provides more opportunities for hackers to infiltrate the voting system. West Virginia could soon make it easier for people with disabilities vote in the 2020 presidential election.
Nearly 140 West Virginians living abroad in 29 countries have cast their election ballots in an unprecedented pilot project that involves voting remotely by mobile device, according to state officials. The statewide pilot, which covers 24 of West Virginia's 55 counties, uses a mixture of smartphones, facial recognition and the same technology that underpins bitcoin -- the blockchain -- in an effort to create a large-scale and secure way for service members, Peace Corps volunteers or other Americans living overseas to participate in the midterm elections. West Virginia is the first state to run a blockchain-based voting project at such a scale, state officials say. And if adopted more widely, the technology could make it easier to vote and potentially reduce long lines at the polls. But many security experts worry that the technology may not be ready for broader use -- and could even contain vulnerabilities that risks the integrity of elections.