Security experts are critical of a West Virginia experiment in Internet voting for military and overseas citizens. Last year the Secretary of State’s office allowed 141 West Virginians in 31 counties to vote, using what’s known as blockchain – the same distributed ledger system cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin use. In an article for Slate magazine, tech reporter Yael Grauer criticized the contractor for being secretive. Among other points, Grauer also questioned whether the use of blockchain really helped secure the voting, or if the experiment just used a fad technology as a kind of marketing. And Grauer pointed to a weak link. “Everybody who’s sent email probably knows that they don’t always go through,” she points out. “And after they receive it they’re putting it on the blockchain, but there’s no way for voters to be able to check whether what they voted on is in the blockchain the way that they voted on it.”Full Article: WV Internet Voting Experiment Criticized / Public News Service.
National: Voatz has raised $7 million in Series A funding for its mobile voting technology | Connie Loizos/TechCrunch
Voatz, the four-year-old, Boston, Mass.-based voting and citizen engagement platform that has been at the center of debate over the merits and dangers of mobile voting, has raised $7 million in Series A funding. The round was co-led by Medici Ventures and Techstars, with participation from Urban Innovation Fund and Oakhouse Partners. Voatz, which currently employs 17 people, is modeled after other software-as-a-service companies but geared toward election jurisdictions, working with state and local governments to conduct elections and provide related election management and cybersecurity services. As we reported back in March, the city of Denver agreed to implement a mobile voting pilot in its May municipal election using Voatz’s technology, an opportunity that was offered exclusively to active-duty military, their eligible dependents and overseas voters using their smartphones.Full Article: Voatz has raised $7 million in Series A funding for its mobile voting technology | TechCrunch.
National: The vote-by-phone tech trend is scaring the life out of security experts | Eric Halper/Los Angeles Times
With their playbook for pushing government boundaries as a guide, some Silicon Valley investors are nudging election officials toward an innovation that prominent coders and cryptographers warn is downright dangerous for democracy. Voting by phone could be coming soon to an election near you. As seasoned disruptors of the status quo, tech pioneers have proven persuasive in selling the idea, even as the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine specifically warn against any such experiment. The fight over mobile voting pits technologists who warn about the risks of entrusting voting to apps and cellphones against others who see internet voting as the only hope for getting most Americans to consistently participate on election day. “There are so many things that could go wrong,” said Marian Schneider, president of Verified Voting, a coalition of computer scientists and government transparency advocates pushing for more-secure elections. “It is an odd time for this to be gaining momentum.”Full Article: The vote-by-phone tech trend is scaring the life out of security experts - Los Angeles Times.
The city of Denver will allow thousands of voters to cast their ballots with a smartphone application this year. The pilot program is one of the first U.S. deployments of a phone-based voting system for public elections — but it will only be available to military members and voters living in other countries. The city has invited all of its international voters — about 4,000 people — to use the app in the May 2019 election. The idea of digital voting has been met with skepticism from some elections security experts, but Denver officials say it could make life easier for a limited set of voters. “This pilot enables us to offer that convenience for our military and overseas citizens who have the most difficult time voting and participating in the democratic process here at home,” said Deputy Elections Director Jocelyn Bucaro.Full Article: Smartphone voting coming to Denver in May election.
West Virginia: Mobile Blockchain Ballot Trial Raises Voting Security Questions | Security Intelligence
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.”Full Article: Mobile Blockchain Ballot Trial Raises Voting Security Questions.
West Virginia: West Virginia is testing a mobile voting app for the midterms. What could go wrong? | Vox
On November 6, West Virginians who are serving in the military or living overseas will be able to vote in a brand new way — via an app on their smartphone. But in a climate that’s rife with fear of US election hacking, this new method of voting is raising some questions. … As mentioned earlier, Voatz relies on blockchain to record the votes. Blockchain, in brief, is a digital ledger that records data — in this case, your vote — but once it’s published, it can’t be canceled or altered. Voatz says its blockchain is “permissioned,” which means you need to be an authenticated user to access it, ostensibly making it more protected. But the problem, according to Philip Stark, a professor of statistics at the University of California Berkeley, is that blockchain does nothing to solve the really difficult problems of voting online. “The one-sentence summary is it’s a scam,” he said of Voatz. “They are not doing what they claim to be doing.”Full Article: West Virginia is testing a mobile voting app for the midterms - Vox.
Let’s get the fish in the barrel out of the way. Voatz are a tech startup whose bright idea was to disrupt democracy by having people vote on their phone, and store the votes on, you guessed it, a blockchain. Does this sound like a bad idea? Welp. It turned out that they seemed awfully casual about basic principles of software security, such as not hard-coding your AWS credentials. It turned out that their blockchain was an eight-node Hyperledger install, i.e. one phenomenologically not especially distinguishable from databases secured by passwords. They have been widely and justly chastised for these things. But they aren’t what’s important.Full Article: Voatz: a tale of a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad idea | TechCrunch.