The state of West Virginia is planning to allow overseas voting via smartphone in the 2018 election, and election security experts aren’t happy about it. “Mobile voting is a horrific idea,” said Joe Hall, an election security expert at the Center for Democracy and Technology in an interview with CNN. The West Virginia project is being run by Voatz, a startup with $2 million in venture capital funding. To ensure buzzword-compliance, the Voatz system uses a blockchain in addition to a mobile app. The state did a limited trial run of the technology in West Virginia’s primary election back in May. Military voters from two West Virginia counties were offered the option to vote via their smartphone instead of sending in an absentee ballot via mail, fax, or email. West Virginia’s secretary of state told CNN that the pilot worked well and that the system passed four audits of various parts of the system. So this November, the state is planning to offer the system more broadly to West Virginians deployed overseas.
… Over the last decade, there has been a growing consensus that a voter-verified paper trail is essential to making the voting process secure and fully auditable. Electronic voting machines can be hacked, and there’s no foolproof way to prevent or even detect attacks on voting machines. So experts argued that the paperless electronic voting machines many states adopted in the early 2000s posed a serious threat to the integrity of our election systems.
Internet voting—whether it’s conducted with a desktop PC or a smartphone—poses an even more severe version of the same problem. Whereas electronic voting machines are typically kept offline during elections, smartphones are online constantly. A voter has no way to tell if his smartphone has been compromised, allowing an attacker to silently tamper with a voter’s choices.