Twenty-four counties in West Virginia are allowing eligible voters overseas to send in their ballots this fall through an app on their phones, offering some US voters the opportunity to enter largely uncharted waters in online voting.
The official word came in a September release from West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner confirming the state would go forward with its plan to give a slice of its voters a mobile phone option to submit ballots.
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When CNN reported on the plan in August, a slew of election integrity and cybersecurity experts criticized the notion of mobile voting. Joseph Lorenzo Hall, the chief technologist at the Center for Democracy and Technology, told CNN previously that "mobile voting is a horrific idea."
Nevertheless, the West Virginia secretary of state's office contended in its announcement that its system was secure and the plan is a noteworthy, "unprecedented" endeavor for elections at the federal level.
The announcement said "eligible uniformed service members and overseas voters" would use an app from a company called Voatz Inc. to send in their official ballots. A video explaining the process said voters would scan their IDs and take video selfies on the app for biometric verification.
Voters then receive their ballots on the app and send them back to be counted on Election Day. The video said votes would then be secured with blockchain technology, which it described as a "digital lockbox that keeps (the ballot) secure until election night."
Additionally, voters would receive emailed copies of their ballots, as would the secretary of state's office in the case of an audit or questions about the validity of a ballot.
The announcement said Warner had "substantial security requirements" in the development of the system and that a pilot run of the system in two counties during the primaries was successful.
West Virginia is one of a handful of states expected to play a decisive role in determining control of the Senate, as Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin seeks re-election in a state that swung for President Donald Trump by an overwhelming margin.
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