Two months after West Virginia allowed a small group of overseas voters to participate in the May 8 primary election using online ballots powered by blockchain technology, one of the state’s top election’s officials said on Sunday it could be implemented statewide in time for the general election in November. If the results of a post-election audit are favorable toward the new technology, which was offered to voters from two counties during the primary, West Virginia will offer all 55 of its counties to participate in blockchain-powered voting, Donald “Deak” Kersey, the state’s elections director, said at the National Association of Secretaries of State conference in Philadelphia. … Not everyone who watched Kersey’s presentation was convinced that mobile voting is the way to go. “Oh, my god,” said J. Alex Halderman, a computer science professor at the University of Michigan who is serving as a technology fellow to Verified Voting, which advocates for ballot security. “Voting over the internet creates extra-difficult problems. Securing servers? Protecting devices? Assuring votes have been recorded while protecting the secret ballot?” Halderman said that no voting technology developed is as secure as in-person paper ballots. He’s testified before Congress on the subject, and has conducted demonstrations in which he hacked electronic voting machines to change tabulations and, in one case, reprogram a machine to play Pac-Man.
In a recent video he made with the New York Times, Halderman explained how a committed hacker — whether acting alone or on behalf of a foreign government — might pose as an election-equipment manufacturer and email a local election official with a virus masked as a software update.
Voatz, Halderman said, “hasn’t made enough public about how the tech works for outside experts to scrutinize it.”
Sawhney told StateScoop that ballots collected over Voatz can generate paper receipts. He also said that the company’s app will not run if it detects malware on a mobile device, but Halderman was skeptical of that claim. “That sounds like a $1 billion solution,” he said.
Still, Halderman agreed making it easier for U.S. citizens to vote from abroad, especially deployed military, is a worthy goal.
“We should do everything we can to make sure members of the military can vote,” he said. “The biggest thing jurisdictions could do for military voters is to extend their deadlines.” (He also expressed doubt that sailors would be allowed to bring their personal mobile phones aboard a submarine.)