We are delighted to announce the launch of a new pilot program today with the City of Denver that will provide mobile voting secured by the blockchain to deployed military personnel and overseas United States citizens during the city’s municipal elections this spring.
We commend the City of Denver for seeking new, innovative technologies to improve our election infrastructure and provide secure, auditable, transparent voting options for voters. With this pilot program, Denver is leading the effort to make voting more convenient and accessible for deployed military personnel and overseas US citizens. The latest developments in smartphone hardware, encryption and blockchain technology make mobile voting a reality. This is a significant stepping stone that we hope many other states and cities will follow.
Eligible deployed military and overseas voters from Denver will have the option to vote with their smartphones from almost anywhere in the world. By using the Voatz application on their mobile phones, they will forgo the time-consuming process of mailing in an absentee ballot, will receive an auditable confirmation, and will be able to verify their vote within seconds of voting.
Last fall, we first piloted our technology at the federal level with 24 counties in West Virginia. During the pilot, 183 voters were eligible to vote, 160 downloaded the application, 147 successfully completed the one-time identity authentication process, and 144 submitted ballots that were counted and audited from 31 countries around the world. More than 200 West Virginians outside the eligibility criteria (military personnel and overseas US citizens from 24 counties) downloaded the app and authenticated themselves, only to find out they were not eligible.
These numbers indicate a 98% successful return rate on ballots received, and a 90% return rate on voters ballots requested. All votes produced: 1) a ballot receipt signed with an anonymous ID to verify the voter’s selections, and 2) an actual ballot with the same anonymous ID, formatted for printing and tabulation per standard procedures. These two verified trails enabled a thorough post-election audit by comparing the selections and the overall counts between the ballot receipts and the printed ballots.
With each of these pilots, we learn valuable feedback and continue to integrate and build with forward progress. Denver is learning from West Virginia, and the lessons we learn from this Denver pilot will inevitably produce valuable feedback that we will continue to welcome and integrate.
The Denver mobile voting option will be offered in addition to the current absentee options (mail, fax, and email). For uniformed military and overseas citizens, jurisdictions are required by law to send the ballot to voters 45 days prior to the election, allowing sufficient time for the ballots to be returned and counted. Ballots sent to participating voters using the Voatz application will be received within minutes, rather than days or sometimes weeks, and can be returned to the jurisdiction the instant the voter submits their ballot. The ballots that the jurisdiction receives are formatted, printed, and tabulated per standard procedure, and contain an anonymous ID that can be used for a rigorous post-election audit.
To use the Voatz platform, eligible voters must submit an absentee ballot request to their election office indicating a preference for mobile voting, and then complete an authentication process on the Voatz application. Once a voter is authenticated, they will be able to vote beginning March 23 until the polls close in May.
The process begins once a voter downloads the Voatz application to their mobile device and begins the one-time authentication process. An eligible, registered voter: 1) scans their state driver’s license or passport, 2) takes a live facial snapshot (a video “selfie”), which is matched against the photo ID and confirmed against the voter registration database, and 3) touches their phone’s Voatz biometric feature (i.e., fingerprint or facial recognition) to tie the voter’s device to the voter. Once the voter is authenticated, the ballot is received and the voter is ready to vote.
Mobile voting secured by blockchain solutions can help address some of the biggest challenges in election administration by adding security, transparency, and trust to the system. We believe that expanding secure voting options in the United States will increase participation in elections and strengthen our democracy.
The pilot is a collaboration between Voatz, the City and County of Denver, Tusk Philanthropies, and the National Cybersecurity Center. To learn more, read the press releases from Tusk Philanthropies and the Denver Elections Commission.