Smartphone voting will get a trial run during November’s U.S. elections. As part of a new pilot program, West Virginia has partnered with Voatz, a Boston-based technology startup, to allow some members of the military stationed overseas to cast ballots with devices connected to a blockchain-enabled vote recording system. Security experts have had mixed reactions to the plan, with some saying blockchain technologies aren’t yet ready for important tasks such as voting security. But defenders say the pilot program will allow veterans stationed in remote locations to make their voices heard during the midterm elections — as long as proper security measures are put in place. Joseph Lorenzo Hall, chief technologist at the Center for Democracy and Technology, a digital rights group, believes smartphone voting is too unproven to use during this year’s elections. “I don’t know why everyone’s solution to things lately is ‘rub some blockchain on it,’” he said. “Blockchain voting methods typically mean you are doing internet voting — which is a horrifically bad idea — and committing encrypted ballots to the blockchain.”
Current encryption schemes will be broken in coming years, Hall predicted, meaning a secret ballot this year may end up in the public domain in the future.
“Imagine if you’re a uniformed military serviceman stationed abroad, excited to be able to cast a ballot … using a remote blockchain voting system. Then imagine that in 20 years, the entire contents of your ballot are decryptable and publicly available. You may face ridicule or other kinds of blowback from your ballot from 20 years ago.”
Given these risks, Hall urged caution, noting that the voting process is not something to tinker with before conducting a “serious and deep inquiry and interrogation.”