West Virginia Ditches Blockchain Voting App Provider Voatz

2 March 2020

Voatz, the blockchain-based voting app that was recently claimed by researchers to have vulnerabilities, will no longer be used in West Virginia’s coming elections.

On Saturday, NBC News reported West Virginia’s secretary of state, Mac Warner, had announced disabled and overseas voters would not, after all, be able to vote with mobile applications during the state’s primaries. Instead, they will have to use a service by Democracy Live, which allows users to fill out a ballot online and return it via post.

West Virginia piloted Voatz’s app during last year’s general midterm election, and introduced legislation early this February mandating an electronic voting option for counties across the state. NBC also said it had seen an agreement between Voatz and the state, indicating the app firm would provide its services for voting in 2020.

However, it seems West Virginia’s confidence in the technology was shaken by two studies from MIT and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published in mid-February that found the Voatz app and internal processes had a number of security vulnerabilities that could lead to hackers altering the ballot and revealing voter identities.

The DHS’ Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), however, determined Voatz had “no active threats” on its network during the week-long operation for the U.S. midterm elections in September 2019.

Voatz said it has since addressed recommendations provided by the DHS.

An election auditor who supervised Utah County’s rollout of the Voatz system told CoinDesk previously that at least some of the bugs the MIT researchers found cannot be exploited in practice.

“If the public doesn’t want it, or is skeptical to the point they’re not confident in the results, we have to take that into consideration,” Donald Kersey, general counsel to the West Virginia secretary of state, said in NBC’s report.