Mobile Voting: West Virginia at forefront of testing military app

It is not often we hear news of West Virginia leading the nation when it comes to technology, but Secretary of State Mac Warner announced this week the Mountain State is doing just that for a secure military mobile voting option that is in limited use for the May 8 primary election.

Harrison and Monongalia counties will be the testing ground for registered, qualified military voters to cast their ballots via a mobile app that uses blockchain technology. According to the Secretary of State’s office’s white paper on the matter, “Blockchain-based mobile voting solutions can help meet many of the most urgent challenges in election administration by adding security, transparency, and trust to the system.”

Benefits listed for the app also include: accuracy, elimination of human error, anonymization of votes, speed and auditability.

In fact, Warner’s son, Scott, who is a resident of Monongalia County deployed to Italy, was the first active user to cast a ballot in this limited trial. He declared it “Pretty slick!”

Use of the technology could be a big advancement in our military personnel’s ability to vote in the free elections for which they fight; and it is encouraging to see West Virginia on the forefront of such an effort.

However, as Mac Warner well knows, there is danger in launching head first into the use of technology, for technology’s sake. Critics of the project point to concerns about hackers and foreign manipulators gaining access to digital votes; and third-party processors building the block chain recording the results they want, rather than the actual votes. So far, the technology appears to stand up to those concerns, but it is important for observers of this very small scale test to be thorough in exploring any possible flaws.

Should it prove worthy, the app could be an important step in improving voter confidence and participation, and Warner is to be applauded for leading West Virginia to explore this option for the entire nation.

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