National: Is Secure Online Voting Too Good To Be True? (For Voatz, It Might Be) | Chitra Ragavan/Swaay
When Amelia Powers Gardner won political office as county clerk and auditor in Utah County, Utah, in January 2019, she was determined to fix what she viewed as the county’s archaic and dysfunctional voting mechanisms. Around that same time, nearly 800 miles northwest, Christine Walker, the long-time county clerk in Jackson County, Oregon, had been deploying various hardware and software products to revamp her county’s voting technology and processes with little success. She was ready for something new. Walker and Gardner don’t know each other. But when they each learned about a small Boston-based tech startup, called Voatz, that had built the first mobile voting app and platform secured by blockchain technology, they were immediately intrigued. And upon discovering that West Virginia and Colorado were already testing the app for absentee military voters overseas, the two election leaders were even more eager to put their counties on the map as trailblazers in online voting. “I like to be the person that’s kind of setting the pace, not just following along,” says Walker, who prides herself on her tech-savvy leadership. Gardner, a former Caterpillar executive, automotive technologist, and business efficiency expert, is similarly technologically inclined. Noble intentions aside, Walker and Gardner’s vote of confidence in Voatz may be misplaced, say members of the cybersecurity community who have repeatedly warned the U.S. government that the app is vulnerable to hacking. These experts, along with several members of Congress, have criticized Voatz for its failures in transparency, lack of accountability, and refusal to release its source code so that it can be better tested for security flaws.