About Voatzview all
What is Voatz’s track record?
To date, Voatz has conducted more than 130 successful live elections in 6 countries including state, municipal, and federal elections; political elections, conventions, caucus voting; union elections, student government elections, professional associations; and town meeting voting. In its largest election, more than 1.7 million votes were cast. For more details on our elections and the voter experience, please visit our blog.
Who are Voatz’s partners and affiliates?
Voatz has formed a diverse, collaborative network across the technology, cybersecurity, democracy, and elections sectors. Our partners include election jurisdictions and officials among others, viewable here.
How does Voatz fit into the elections process?
Elections are run differently across the world, and each jurisdiction usually has a governing board that decides which processes and technologies will facilitate voting.
Things are no different in the U.S., where election decisions are made at the state level. Most often, the Secretaries of State, State Election Directors, and other government officials hire one of a number of companies that specialize in election technologies and services—everything from paper ballots and tabulation machines, to personnel support services. The major companies offering these services have been around for at least a decade.
Voatz is one of the youngest companies to enter into the field. While Voatz leverages some of the latest technologies across its voting platform, it also produces a paper ballot so that it can integrate seamlessly into the existing infrastructure. This process alleviates the burden on election officials who otherwise have to manually process mailed-in absentee ballots (opening the envelope, flattening the ballot, scanning), and e-mailed absentee ballots from military and overseas citizens (opening the email, hand-copying selections onto a tabulatable paper ballot, scanning).
If a voter lives in a jurisdiction offering Voatz, the process is as follows:
- REQUEST — A voter requests to vote absentee from their jurisdiction and indicates they’d like to “vote mobile” (which often requires filling out an “absentee voter request form”).
- VERIFY — The voter receives an invitation to download the Voatz app and verify their identity (usually by scanning a government-issued photo ID).
- VOTE — Once verified, the voter votes on the smartphone and a paper ballot is produced at the jurisdiction for tabulation. The voter also receives a ballot receipt confirming their selections. Both documents are digitally signed with an anonymous ID to preserve privacy.
- CONFIRM — After the election, an audit confirms that the tabulation (paper ballots) match voter intent (ballot receipts).
Is the Voatz platform the same thing as internet voting?
There are several important differences between traditional internet voting and the Voatz platform. Internet voting generally refers to the submission of a ballot on a website from a personal computer (PC). This method is highly insecure, as it can be difficult, or even impossible, to detect whether a PC has been compromised.
In contrast, Voatz is a mobile application that can only be downloaded to recently manufactured smartphones. These phones need to have several advanced security mechanisms, including fingerprint and facial recognition, which Voatz uses for secure voter identity verification and ballot submission. These phones also contain hardware-based security mechanisms to store private keys, which provide the ability to conduct highly secure, encrypted transactions over the internet. Finally, Voatz stores all votes on a permissioned blockchain which is ultimately monitored by various stakeholders (e.g. a Secretary of State or officials with the state board of elections) to ensure they are tamper-resistant, auditable and immutable.
Voatz is a mobile elections platform that enables citizens to vote without having to visit their polling place or submit a paper ballot via mail. Voatz leverages the security features built into the latest versions of smartphone technology, biometrics, and the immutability of the blockchain to ensure each vote is secure. All votes submitted on the Voatz platform generate a paper ballot for tabulation, along with a receipt for voters to verify their selections.
Since June 2016, more than 2.3 million voters have used the Voatz platform across more than 130 elections. Voatz has a wide array of experience working with several major political parties, as well as states, cities, towns, universities, churches, professional associations and unions, all in an effort to make voting safe, convenient, and reliable.
How did Voatz get started?
The founders started Voatz in 2015 almost by accident. They won the ‘Hack to the Future’ hackathon at SXSW in 2014 with an idea for mobile voting and preventing voter coercion, which later became the early seedlings of the Voatz platform. Drawing from their careers in technology, mobile security, backend infrastructure, and digital payments, they began exploring an alternative method of voting that would make the process more trusted and convenient. Voatz has since grown into a passionate group of people who are determined to make voting safe, accessible, and secure.
Information for Election Officialsview all
I am an election official interested in Voatz. What steps should I take to move forward with the process of adopting the technology?
For those interested in adopting the Voatz technology, we conduct phone consultations to understand the type of election and the needs of the jurisdiction, and then chart a path forward on the basis of these parameters.
To learn more, contact our business development team here.
What are the pricing options for Voatz?
Voatz uses an adjustable tiered pricing model that varies based on election complexity, volume, and degree of customization. We work closely with each jurisdiction to account for all relevant details, including budget, number of voters, and time constraints.
Is Voatz compatible with other election vendors? How does mobile voting fit into the existing paper ballot infrastructure?
Voatz is designed to integrate with existing election operations to reduce logistical hurdles for election officials and provide a convenient, useful alternative for voters. Before a voting window opens, we work directly with jurisdictions and alongside other election vendors to create electronic versions of the ballots that are optimized for viewing on a smartphone interface. Every submitted mobile ballot also generates an official paper ballot for printing and tabulation at the jurisdiction.
If a voter doesn’t have a smartphone or compatible device, what are their options?
In public elections, Voatz is offered as an alternative voting method for voters who are unable to access the traditional options like voting in-person or via postal mail. In private elections, Voatz works closely with clients to determine if an alternative voting method is needed. We also offer a tablet-based system, which can be used on its own or in conjunction with our smartphone-based system.
What types of support does Voatz provide for election officials and voters?
Election officials receive a dedicated relationship manager who is available for any needs as they arise. For voters, Voatz maintains a full-time, fully-staffed help desk and support infrastructure accessible via the app, website, or phone. Support is available leading up to, during, and after the election.
How does Voatz train election officials?
Voatz has designed its system to fit as seamlessly as possible into existing election operations. All election officials receive comprehensive training, including live webinars, training manuals, instructional videos, and on-site support as needed. Our goal is to create a high degree of familiarity with the platform and equip election officials with the resources needed to confidently offer Voatz as a viable voting option.
How does Voatz train voters?
Voatz works closely with election officials to provide comprehensive voter training. We offer a variety of training materials, including voter guides, instructional videos, step-by-step workflows, FAQ, and live webinars, which are fully customizable for each election or voting event. We also offer full-time virtual support via a live help desk for anyone needing additional assistance. Most importantly, our expert designers continually update and modify the application to optimize intuitiveness and ease-of-use so voters feel comfortable using the app.
How does Voatz integrate with an existing elections process?
Voatz integration is similar to a typical absentee voting process:
- PROCESS VOTER REQUESTS - A voter requests to vote absentee from their jurisdiction and indicates they’d like to “vote mobile” (which often requires filling out the “absentee voter request form”). Election officials add the voter to a list of those who are eligible to receive a mobile ballot.
- PROVIDE VOTER LIST - The jurisdiction provides Voatz with a voter list of all those approved to use Voatz; all voters on the voter list receive an invitation to download and verify with Voatz.
- VERIFY & VOTE - Voters download the Voatz app to their smartphone and verify their identity, which is checked against the voter list. Once approved, the voter submits their ballot from their smartphone and a paper ballot is produced at the jurisdiction for tabulation. The voter also receives a ballot receipt confirming their selections. Both documents are digitally signed with an anonymous ID to preserve privacy.
- CONFIRM - After the election, an audit is conducted to confirm the tabulated paper ballots match the ballot receipts and the blockchain record.
About Mobile Votingview all
Are there legal hurdles associated with mobile voting?
The answer to this question depends on the type of voter and their location.
Citizens living overseas, or those deployed in the military (commonly referred to as Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act or “UOCAVA” voters) have a nationwide provision that allows them additional opportunities beyond the traditional methods of voting. Some states allow the electronic return of a marked ballot (i.e. via email or web portal), while others require the voter to print their ballot and mail it from overseas. For the states that already allow electronic or fax return, mobile voting is likely a legal and viable option. For more information on how UOCAVA applies across different states, visit https://www.fvap.gov.
Some states also allow voters with disabilities to vote using the same methods as UOCAVA voters, so in many instances, the same provisions and allowances above would also apply for that demographic. Two states allowing this include West Virginia and Utah.
For the population at large, Voatz has been working with jurisdictions on a pilot-by-pilot basis to collect data on mobile voting and its operational success in the field. These metrics and case studies can help challenge some of the broader legal hurdles and garner support for the electronic delivery and return of the voted ballot.
Can anyone vote this way?
Voatz is currently only available in elections that are actively engaged in a pilot or on a contractual basis. If you would like the opportunity to vote mobile in your election, contact us for details.
Voatz is working to reinforce the democratic process by providing access to key groups who have otherwise faced challenges in voting. Currently, our focus is on helping those in the overseas services, military, and people with disabilities.
For overseas servicemen and women, as well as military personnel, Voatz is helping to address the significant security issues associated with current remote voting options. Email, fax, and postal paper ballots are not sufficiently secure and, in some cases, are often lost, or require the voter to waive their right to an anonymous ballot. Furthermore, according to the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP), of the 3 million eligible voters in this group, only 7% vote. This constitutes one of the most disenfranchised demographics. According to FVAP, this low rate is largely due to logistical barriers. Voatz is working to close the gap and lessen the challenges these voters face, especially as compared to their counterparts at home.
For many voters with disabilities, casting ballots on their smartphones ensures they can participate in elections. These voters face obstacles at nearly every point of the voting process, including limited transport to polling sites, limited access to voting machines and on-site assistance, and difficulty physically navigating polling sites. Previous efforts to assist this group have largely failed to address these challenges, and as such, they routinely show up to vote at much lower rates than the general public. Voatz incorporates the native accessibility features of smartphones to the fullest extent possible to counteract some of these barriers to entry, and to increase the number of people with disabilities who can comfortably and fully participate in elections.
Voatz’s goal is to provide everyone who can vote with the opportunity to do so in an accessible, secure, and accountable way. Whether this means increasing voter turnout in local elections or creating an opportunity for experienced voters to participate in an easier fashion, Voatz believes that maintaining the right to vote is essential to upholding the viability of our elections.
For a more detailed look at who Voatz can help, read stories from a volunteer in West Africa, a military paratrooper voter, a student in China, and a disabled voter in Utah.
What are the benefits of mobile voting?
The benefits of mobile voting include increased voter access, convenience, security, and the ability to verify and audit your own vote(s).
First, a mobile voting option could increase voter turnout, given that the vast majority of the population owns a smartphone. As examples, voter turnout increased quantifiably after successful pilots in West Virginia, Utah County, Denver County, and in the Utah Republican Party Convention.
Second, smartphones contain advanced security measures that allow the Voatz platform to verify and anonymize the identity of the voter, and to secure the aggregate vote (see more in our FAQ under Why the smartphone?).
Third, as soon as a ballot is submitted on the Voatz platform, three things happen: 1) a paper ballot is printed at the jurisdiction for tabulation; 2) the voter receives a ballot receipt to verify their selections; and 3) all selections are recorded on a blockchain network. This process allows the voter unprecedented levels of access to verify that their vote(s) were counted as they intended, and allows the jurisdiction to verify that all votes submitted using the Voatz platform are tabulated correctly. To learn more about how this process works, view the video on our Security & Technology page.
What happens if a smartphone is hacked?
Only smartphones that support the necessary security requirements can run the Voatz app. These requirements include support for biometric authentication and running the latest version of the operating system, among others. The Voatz app takes advantage of the capabilities of the supported smartphones, which can detect whether the operating system has been tampered with (e.g. an operation known as “rooted” or a “jailbreak”).
The Voatz app does not permit a voter to vote if the operating system has been compromised.
The Voatz platform employs multiple layers of security (including malware detection and end-to-end encryption) to detect whether an operating system has been tampered with and to prevent a compromised device from submitting a ballot.
For more details, take a look at the mobile security documents listed in the Additional Resources section at the bottom of this page.
Which smartphones are compatible with Voatz?
Currently, Voatz supports Apple smartphones including iPhone 6s or newer, and most modern Android smartphones (running Android v9.0 or newer) from approved device manufacturers.
Voatz defines “mobile voting” as the ability to vote using a native application installed on a smartphone device. The purpose of using smartphone applications is to leverage the advanced security mechanisms built into smart devices, including biometrics and mobile threat defense, among others.
Others have previously classified voting on a web browser from a mobile device as “mobile voting”; however, because web browsers are unable to provide the same degree of security, votes cast this way should be classified as “internet voting”.
Benefits of using a smartphone include platform readiness, security, and convenience. Smartphones contain enhanced security measures relative to other voting methods currently used by certain electorates (including military and overseas voters who vote via email, website, facsimile, or postal mail). By leveraging the built-in security of smartphones, Voatz is able to authorize and secure the identity of the voter, preserve their anonymity, and integrate other technologies to verify and secure the aggregate vote. These technologies help facilitate a significantly more sophisticated approach than the standard ballot box process.
Additionally, in the last five years, the adoption rate of the smartphone has skyrocketed. Today, most people are heavily reliant on their smart devices. According to Pew Research, the rate of smartphone ownership in the United States was 94% for people ages 18-29, 89% for people ages 30-49, and 73% for people ages 50-64. With smartphone ownership even higher among younger demographics, Voatz is building a solution for voters of the future.
Does Voatz work with the disability community to test its technology?
In addition to working directly with members of the disability community, Voatz has an established partnership with the National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM) to assess its technology and optimize for accessibility. NCAM’s mission is to expand access to present and future media for people with disabilities; to explore how existing access technologies may benefit other populations; to represent its constituents in industry, policy, and legislative circles; and to provide access to educational and media technologies for special needs students.
View a press release on the partnership here.
Does Voatz support other assistive technologies?
Yes. The Voatz app supports multiple assistive technologies, including:
- VoiceOver and TalkBack screen readers
- Predictable layout and navigation
- Configurable font size
- Voice Control (on iOS)
- Speech-to-Text (for write-ins)
- Flexible session timeout limitations
More information, including demonstration videos of accessibility features to support blind or dexterity-impaired voters, is available upon request.
Additionally, for vision, mobility, and cognitive disabilities, Voatz builds its technology according to the following standards:
- EAC Voluntary Voting System Guidelines (VVSG v1.1) for usability and accessibility
- Worldwide Web Consortium’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1 level AA (WCAG 2.1/AA)
- Apple iOS and Android best practices for accessibility
Learn more about our approach to accessibility here
Does Voatz support multiple languages?
Yes, Voatz currently supports English and Spanish and will continue to add additional languages in upcoming releases. The app defaults to the current language settings on a voter’s device and can be changed at any time.
Does Voatz support voice capabilities for voters who can’t type on a smartphone?
Yes, Voatz supports all features including talk-to-text, VoiceOver (iOS), and TalkBack (Android), allowing a voter to complete the entire ballot submission process without needing to look at the screen or type.
How Voatz Worksview all
How does Voatz protect personal information?
Protecting all voters’ personal information is the number one priority at Voatz. As soon as a voter’s identity is verified and linked to the voter’s thumbprint, FaceID*, or PIN, all identifying documents (photo ID, video ‘selfie’) are completely expunged from the system. This ensures that no personally identifiable information can be accessed in the future, and allows Voatz to use the smartphone’s thumbprint, FaceID* or PIN capabilities to authenticate the voter going forward.
*FaceID is copyright by Apple.
How do voters confirm that their votes are counted?
Once a voter submits a ballot, three distinct records are created that allow a voter to verify their vote is recorded and counted as they intended.
- Ballot Receipt: Soon after voting, a voter receives an encrypted, anonymized receipt to verify their selections. This receipt is password protected and signed with an anonymous ID (only the voter knows this password and anonymous ID).
- Paper Ballot: A paper ballot is generated and printed at the jurisdiction for tabulation. This paper ballot is signed with the same anonymous ID, and this paper ballot constitutes the record being counted.
- Blockchain Record: All ballot selections pass through multiple, distributed nodes on a public-permissioned blockchain network. If the votes pass all checks, they are stored as a tamper-resistant record alongside all other votes.
There is an additional step a voter can take to verify their vote(s). Once the election closes, the voter has the opportunity to participate in a public citizens’ audit, where all ballot receipts, paper ballots and blockchain data are compared to ensure voter intent is reflected in the overall election count. For more information about the Voatz post-election audit process, view the video on the Security & Technology
page of our website.
What is the voting process with Voatz?
Voatz is currently only available for elections in jurisdictions that are actively engaged in a pilot or on a contractual basis.
If a voter lives in a jurisdiction offering Voatz, the process is as follows:
- REQUEST - A voter requests to vote absentee from their jurisdiction and indicates that they would like to “vote mobile” (which often requires filling out an “absentee voter request form”).
- VERIFY - The voter receives an invitation to download the Voatz app and verify their identity (usually by scanning a government-issued photo ID).
- VOTE - Once verified, the voter votes on the smartphone and a paper ballot is produced at the jurisdiction for tabulation. The voter also receives a ballot receipt confirming their selections. Both documents are digitally signed with an anonymous ID to preserve privacy.
- CONFIRM - After the election, an audit confirms that the tabulation (paper ballots) match voter intent (ballot receipts).
In the third point above, the actual voting process begins once the voting window officially opens. When the voter opens the app, they will see a notification on the home screen indicating they have access to an active ballot in an ongoing election. When they open the ballot, they can tap to make selections for the candidate(s) and/or issue(s) of their choice, one contest at a time. Voters are prevented from making more selections than allowed for a given contest. This ensures that only the allotted number of votes is recorded. At any time before submission, the voter can review their choices and make changes if necessary. Once finished, the voter submits their ballot, and all information is anonymized and recorded on a blockchain network.
How does Voatz verify voter identity?
In the Voatz app, authentication is a three-step process that uses the smartphone’s camera and biometric features (fingerprint recognition or facial recognition):
- The voter scans their state driver’s license, state ID, or passport.
- The voter takes a live snapshot of their face (a video “selfie”).
- The voter touches the fingerprint reader or uses the facial recognition feature on their smartphone, which links the device to the voter.
The app first does a liveness check on the ‘selfie’, then compares the voter’s “selfie” to the photo on their passport or driver’s license, and finally, compares the ID data to the state’s voter registration database to confirm that the voter is eligible to vote. As soon as the voter is authenticated, all personally identifiable information is deleted.
The entire process takes roughly five minutes and once a voter has successfully completed authentication, they will not be required to do it again unless they change their address or get a new ID.
This process is essential because it verifies that the voter is who they say they are, that their jurisdiction confirms they are eligible to vote, and that their identity is tied to the smartphone being used, guaranteeing one voter per device, and one device only.
Audits and Testingview all
Can anyone test the Voatz platform?
Yes. Anyone can test the Voatz platform via our public bug bounty program. You can also contact us for more advanced testing opportunities.
What happens if Voatz discovers someone trying to tamper with an election?
As of 2017, elections infrastructure has been officially classified as “critical infrastructure” by the Department of Homeland Security. As such, any attempts to tamper with a live election on the Voatz platform is considered a federal offense. In the event of such an attempt, Voatz will provide a detailed report to the partnering jurisdiction; any subsequent actions taken are then subject to the jurisdiction’s discretion.
What is Voatz’s process to address issues found by security researchers?
All relevant issues identified through our public bug bounty programs or our private, external testing engagements are promptly triaged and addressed according to priority, risk-level, and workload.
How does Voatz work with the security community?
Voatz welcomes the opportunity to collaborate with researchers in the security community, both through private engagements as well as publicly through our bug bounty program. If a valid issue is found, we immediately begin the work to implement a solution.
What have been the outcomes of the audits?
Collectively, the audit results have been satisfactory, and all blocking or critical issues that were identified have been resolved. These audits also produced a number of useful suggestions for improvement which are in the process of being implemented in upcoming releases.
Does Voatz make its audits public?
Yes, more information can be found on the Audits page on our website.
What do Voatz’s security audits involve?
The audit process involves a comprehensive evaluation of the various components of the Voatz platform, including the:
- Cloud infrastructure
- Mobile applications
- Blockchain network
- Source code
- Corporate network
Testing focuses on the most critical security concerns as outlined by organizations such as the Open Web Application Security Project
(OWASP), The SANS Institute
, the National Institute of Standards and Technology
(NIST), and The MITRE Corporation
. They cover, but are not limited to:
- OWASP Mobile Top 10 Risks
- Unintended data leakage
- Attack on binary protections
- Local and remote injection attacks
- Unauthorized information disclosure attacks
- Application reverse engineering or decompilation
- Common authentication and authorization issues
Does Voatz do independent audits of its technology?
Yes. We pursue continuous, ongoing audits of our technology and make the results of those public in an effort to push the elections industry into further transparency. To learn more about our audits, visit the Audits page on our website.
How does Voatz test its technology?
Voatz takes extensive measures to test its technology via continuous internal and red team testing, as well as independent, third-party audits. These measures are essential to both the efficacy and responsible deployment of our technology, and to maintaining compliance with elections standards and guidelines. The Voatz software development team incorporates industry-standard testing procedures, and our quality assurance team is led by experienced professionals who have worked extensively with certified election systems.
In addition to internal, ongoing red team testing simulations, Voatz utilizes the guidelines and standards set forth by organizations like the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Election Assistance Commission (EAC), as well as compliance entities like ProV&V in order to rigorously stress-test the platform and further the development of emerging standards related to mobile voting.
The goal of these testing procedures is to continually improve our ability to detect, report, and thwart tampering attempts while contributing to the evolution of security standards in the elections industry, and to increase the scalability of our product.
To learn more, visit the Security & Technology, Audits, and Issue Disclosure Policy pages on our website.
What guidelines does Voatz follow to make sure its platform is secure?
Voatz leverages robust testing procedures both internally and with third-party entities to ensure compliance with industry standards. These procedures are essential to both the efficacy and responsible deployment of our technology and maintaining a close-knit connection to the statutes related to compliance. The Voatz software development team incorporates industry-standard, agile development and testing procedures, and the quality assurance team is led by professional testers with deep experience in certified election systems.
The Voatz testing procedures include internal, ongoing red team testing simulations, as well as working alongside emerging guidelines from NIST, VVSG 2.0, and compliance entities like ProV&V and the EAC in order to rigorously stress-test the platform and further the development of emerging standards related to mobile voting.
The purpose of these testing mechanisms is to build for scale and to continually improve our safeguards to detect, report, thwart, and identify any attempted tampering in order to nudge the elections industry toward the highest degree of security standards.
If a user’s phone or wireless network is compromised, is their vote compromised as well?
The Voatz platform goes to significant lengths to prevent a vote from being submitted if a device is compromised, has malware on it, or is operating on a compromised network. Only certain types of smartphones that are equipped with the latest security features are compatible with Voatz. The platform’s threat detection mechanisms are able to identify if a mobile device is running malicious applications or has been rooted or jailbroken; if issues are found, the voter will see an error message and will not be able to submit a ballot. To mitigate a compromised wireless network, Voatz uses end-to-end encryption for all submitted ballots and also forces users to switch to a safer network if needed prior to letting them proceed.
How does Voatz prevent voter coercion?
Voatz recognizes that if a remote voter can demonstrate how they voted, there will be concerns over the potential for coercion and vote buying. However, given that most states already send ballots through the postal mail, there is no practical technology that can prevent coercion or vote buying. Legislation and enforcement are the best practical methods of deterring coercion and vote buying.
How does Voatz prevent voter fraud?
Voatz employs a strict, multifactor identity verification process to ensure that only one voter can submit one ballot on one device. Once a voter verifies their identity on a device, their identity is locked to that device and they are prevented from verifying their identity on any other device. Once a voter submits a ballot on their device, they are prevented from voting again and will receive an error message if they attempt to do so.
Can Voatz prove that all ballots were counted correctly?
Yes. Voatz has pioneered public citizens’ audits where any interested citizen can sign up to audit all mobile ballots submitted on the Voatz system to ensure that all ballots were counted correctly. These audits involve a comparison of the three trails that a mobile ballot submission generates: the paper ballot, the voter-verified ballot receipt, and the blockchain record. For more information on how the audit process works, watch the video on our Security & Technology page.
What type of blockchain does Voatz use?
The Voatz blockchain is built using the Hyperledger Fabric framework, originally pioneered by IBM and now run by the Linux Foundation. This framework is a public-permissioned network, meaning the network is visible to the public, but in order to participate as a verifying node, the verifier must pass through a strict vetting process. This allows the network to limit verifying participants to the geographical boundaries of the jurisdiction, and to broaden stakeholdership to include all relevant election observers and stakeholders. In the Voatz network, the minimum number of validating nodes is four, and these can be expanded to 16 or 32 as needed, depending on the estimated number of voters. Additional scaling is planned for the future.
It is important to note that this type of blockchain network is distinctly different from the public blockchain network used by many cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin, where anyone can sign up to participate as a verifying node.
What is blockchain and how does it work for Voatz?
Blockchain is sometimes referred to as “distributed ledger technology” (DLT), because it behaves like a general ledger, with debits on the left side and credits on the right. Unlike a company’s general ledger, which typically exists on a single computer, the blockchain ledger is distributed across multiple, geographically separated servers. These servers are called “verifiers” because their purpose is to verify the authenticity of the individual blocks, each of which contains groups of anonymous votes. Once a server verifies a block, it is added to the collection of other previously verified blocks—the blockchain network. Each block is replicated across the entire network of verifying servers and cannot be changed.
For more general information on how blockchain works, we recommend starting with the videos listed in the Additional Resources section at the bottom of this page.
Once the voter has been verified on the Voatz app, their jurisdiction initiates the voting process by sending a ballot to their mobile device. For the voter, this ballot contains the same information as a paper ballot. Contained in the mobile ballot are “tokens“—think of them as potential votes—which are cryptographically tied to a candidate or ballot measure question. The number of tokens a voter receives is the same as the number of ovals that would appear on a paper ballot. The voter makes their desired selections in the Voatz app, and as they do so, each selection alters the tokens (like filling in a ballot oval).
Once submitted, the votes for choices on the ballot are verified by multiple distributed servers called “verifiers”, or validating nodes. Upon verification, the token is debited (i.e. subtracted) from the voter’s ledger and credited (i.e. added) to the candidate’s ledger. The blockchain on every verifier is automatically updated and the process repeats as additional voters submit their selections.
For more info, please view the brief video clip showing where blockchain enters the voting process on the Security & Technology page of our website.
Can’t ballots submitted on the internet be hacked?
No voting system, including the current paper-based system, is 100% secure. However, mobile voting systems can take sufficient measures to prevent tampering to the greatest extent possible, with more advanced provisions than the current system.
Voatz incorporates the security principle Defense in Depth, wherein multiple security controls are deployed across the platform, each approaching risk in different ways in order to build layers of defense around each asset. As an example, the Voatz app can only be used on compatible smartphones running the latest software. The app leverages the security of these devices (biometrics, hardware security), and embeds additional layers of detection that prevent any compromised device from submitting votes. Voatz also uses blockchain technology to store the final, aggregate vote record on multiple redundant, distributed ledgers for the highest degrees of tamper-resistance. If any bad actor attempts to break into this record, all servers would be alerted, thus rendering “hacking” a very challenging, if not impossible, task. Finally, Voatz produces a multi-layer audit trail so that if in the extremely rare case, a ballot is deemed to have been tampered with, the voter is alerted and has the ability to submit another ballot for tabulation.
Does Voatz have a paper trail?
Yes. Each mobile ballot generates a paper ballot which is tabulated by the jurisdiction using industry-standard tabulation machines. Each voter also receives an anonymized ballot receipt so they can verify their selections. These two documents facilitate a post-election audit where the paper ballot can be compared with the ballot receipt.
How are votes kept private?
During authentication, the Voatz app encrypts the voter’s identity and links the phone to the voter via their fingerprint. Once authentication is complete, all identifying information (photo, identity record) is deleted. This process ensures that no identifying information is stored and effectively allows a voter to be both verified and anonymous. Voters are then able to privately access their ballot and vote from their mobile device, and after submission, these votes are anonymously stored on a public-permissioned blockchain network.
To learn more about how this process works with accompanying visuals, please watch the video on the How it Works page on our website.
If for any reason a voter falls off the voter registration rolls, the jurisdiction will no longer send a mobile ballot. Since Voatz does not store any identifying information, a voter must complete the registration and authentication processes again in order to gain eligibility and access their ballot(s).