American Elections

West Virginia Is Trialling A New Voting App

Over in America, the midterm elections are just a few months away. On the 6th of November, voters across the country will cast their ballots in booths as normal. But what about citizens who are outside the country? In the past, they would have to cast their vote weeks in advance- not ideal for those who might be on the fence about which candidate to choose. To solve this issue, West Virginia is trialling a new app that allows soldiers and overseas citizens to vote on the same day as everyone else.

It’s called “Voatz”, and we know what you’re thinking. When Russian hacking overshadowed the 2016 election, surely they can’t be serious. Well, apparently, they are. Mac Warner, West Virginia’s Secretary of State, stands by the app, pointing out the high level of security built in. First of all, would-be voters need to take both a picture of government-issued photo ID and a video of their face. The app then compares these to ensure that both match up using facial recognition software- and only then are users able to cast their ballot.

In theory, then, the app is secure. To keep data safe and protect the anonymity of voters, it uses blockchain technology. That’s the same method used by cryptocurrencies, and it was also tested in a couple of primary elections earlier this year with positive results. However, plenty of people are concerned that allowing voting online is opening up a can of worms. With no paper trail left behind, votes could be changed at any point along the line, and officials would be none the wiser.

What’s more, a digital option presents would-be election meddlers with a lot more opportunities to pull of their schemes. Paper ballots might not be high-tech, but they are far harder to fake than a piece of data in a computer system. Due to all those security concerns, it’s being left up to individual counties in West Virginia to decide whether or not they will use Voatz. We’ll just have to wait and see if the app is a success. One thing’s for sure, though- plenty of people will be watching West Virginia come November, and not all of them will be on the side of democracy.

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