Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

West Virginia Pilot

What is the West Virginia Secure Military Mobile Voting Pilot?

The Secure Military Mobile Voting Pilot was conducted during the 2018 Primary election in Monongalia and Harrison Counties. This pilot is the first time that military personnel, their spouses, dependents and citizens stationed overseas who are registered to vote can cast an official ballot on a smartphone, and have their vote secured by blockchain technology.

How does this compare to other military voting initiatives?

The West Virginia Secure Mobile Voting Pilot follows the same set of administrative procedures that jurisdictions typically follow to authenticate voters and determine their eligibility to vote. The difference is how official ballots are delivered to qualified voters and how anonymous ballots from qualified voters are returned to the jurisdiction. Earlier tests could not preserve privacy, were insecure and often inconvenient to the voter. The returned ballots from these earlier tests also imposed a burden on the jurisdiction’s staff because they could not be tabulated without manual transcription.

This pilot enables an authenticated military voter to cast a secret ballot conveniently on a familiar, secure device — their smartphone. Instead of being stored on a single, Internet-connected server, in this pilot, votes are recorded on redundant and geographically distributed servers running open source blockchain software. Once the voter goes through the setup process, described below, ballots from the jurisdiction will simply appear on his or her smartphone at the start of early voting. The balloting process is frictionless; the voting process is simple, secure and anonymous.

Does the West Virginia pilot run on the public bitcoin blockchain?

No. The pilot runs on a public permissioned blockchain (built on the Hyperledger framework) of verified servers located in the US and Canada. Depending on the scope of the election, upto 16 nodes may be utilized at this stage.

How do I participate?

To participate in the West Virginia’s Secure Military Mobile Voting pilot, a qualified and eligible voter in Monongalia and Harrison counties must (1) submit a Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) to their county clerk indicating they would like to receive voting information via email or online (this process can be done via email in West Virginia); (2) once the voter receives confirmation from the Clerk, they download the free mobile voting app from Voatz, Inc.; (3) authenticate themselves, and (4) upon receipt of the ballot, vote.

How do we know if the Voatz app can be trusted?

The Voatz app is built with security measures embedded in qualified smartphones and employs blockchain technology to ensure that, once submitted, votes are verified and immutably stored on multiple, geographically diverse verifying servers. Before going into the pilot, Voatz submitted the smartphone voting app to an independent security firm for review. Beyond the pilot, the Voatz voting app undergoes frequent rigorous “red-team” testing by independent, qualified third parties. See “Securiry Audit” for more information.

How is the West Virginia pilot different from the Sierra Leone blockchain pilot?

In the Sierra Leone blockchain pilot, voters still marked paper ballots, which were then manually re-coded and uploaded onto a blockchain network. In the West Virginia pilot, voters verify their identity and submit their votes directly through the smartphone-based Voatz app, which immediately uploads them to the blockchain for verification, rather than passing into someone else’s hands and then hitting the blockchain.