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West Virginia tests secure mobile voting app for military personnel

West Virginia tests secure mobile voting app for military personnel
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West Virginia is testing a new secure mobile voting application to help active-duty military members vote in the upcoming May primary election.

Secretary of State Mac Warner (R) announced the pilot program on Wednesday afternoon. It will initially be limited to military voters and their spouses and children who are registered to vote in Harrison and Monongalia counties. However, the state plans to expand the program to all 55 counties in the upcoming November general election if the pilot proves successful. 

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The app is powered by Blockchain, a type of technology used to secure cryptocurrency that has gained increased attention with the rising popularity of digital currencies such as bitcoin. The technology has already been deployed in health care and other industries to secure data.

Security experts in the wake of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election have increasingly pointed to blockchain technology as a way to secure election systems and ensure confidence in future votes.

West Virginia is the first state to test out a blockchain-based application to administer a federal election.

“West Virginia is taking the lead in providing safe, secure and accurate voting systems to encourage voter participation at every level,” Warner said in a statement. “We’re working hard to increase the level of confidence citizens have in our election process. Increased confidence results in increased participation.”

In order to sign up for the new program, military voters in the two counties need to apply for special absentee status and download the secure app on an Apple or Android phone or tablet. 

Military members registered vote in West Virginia are currently allowed to cast ballots by mail, fax and email.

The app was designed by Boston-based tech startup Voatz, which secured more than $2 million in funding earlier this year to develop blockchain voting technology. It encrypts data to ensure the voter’s ballot is securely transmitted.

The West Virginia primary will take place on May 8.