West Virginia Will Allow Smartphone Voting for Disabled Voters

West Virginia legislature has passed legislation that will allow disabled voters to vote via smartphone. Governor Jim Justice is expected to sign the bill. It would require every county in West Virginia to offer smartphone voting, but the bill does not require a specific method for voting.

West Virginia tested software called Voatz, which uses blockchain to secure elections. The state used the software in 2018 to allow 150 overseas voters to participate in an election. Electronic voting for residents overseas uses increased measures to verify a person’s identity by using facial biometrics and thumbprints. 

However, computer security experts believe that conducting an election using smartphones and the Internet creates a hacking vulnerability. Matt Blaze, Chair of Computer Science and Law at Georgetown University, said “This is incredibly unwise. Mobile voting systems completely run counter to the overwhelming consensus of every expert in the field.” Experts believe that modern computers and smartphones have a large “attack surface” increasing the chances that these devices could be hacked. For example, an app could be secure but a device’s operating system or the network it operates on could have a weakness. A hacker could change votes or prevent voting, which could be enough to change a close election. The 2018 mobile voting was subjected to an attempted hack; it is unclear if it was successful.

A report from the Senate Intelligence Committee has noted that “[s]tates should resist pushes for online voting…no system of online voting has yet established itself as secure.”

West Virginia will join King County, Washington as two jurisdictions potentially allowing smartphone voting. However, while one county in Washington is using it for a local election, the entire state of West Virginia could be adopting the new technology.