Third-party audit shows no discrepancies in biometric remote voting with Voatz app
A third-party audit of voting using the biometric Voatz app for elections in Denver has been completed by the National Cybersecurity Center (NCC) and Denver Election Divisions, and shows votes cast via blockchain were recorded and tabulated accurately, according to an announcement by Tusk Philanthropies.
The audits followed the Municipal Election in May and June Run-off, with the former audit by the NCC livestreamed by Denver Election Divisions. The NCC worked with Voatz to develop a web-based tool for displaying voter-verified receipts, tabulated ballot images and blockchain transactions, and members of the public were invited to participate in the auditing process, with 18 volunteers from a diverse set of backgrounds joining the process, according to the announcement.
A post-election survey from Denver Election Division found that respondents unanimously favored secure mobile voting over all other available methods.
“We are very excited about the promise of this technology. Our goal was to offer a more convenient and secure method for military and overseas citizen voters to cast their ballots, and this pilot proved to be successful,” says Denver Deputy Director of Elections Jocelyn Bucaro. “More voters participated in this cycle, in part thanks to this convenient method, and those voters who voted using the application prefer to vote by this method in all elections in the future. We were also excited to invite election observers behind the curtain to independently audit the votes cast through the blockchain, and hope this technology can further enhance election transparency.”
“Overseas voters face significant barriers to voting. For 12 years as head of the largest election jurisdiction in the U.S, Los Angeles County, I saw first-hand the difficulty and frustration of timely delivery of ballots to and from thousands of military and overseas voters via only traditional mailing methods,” comments Conny McCormack, former Clerk/Recorder of Los Angeles County, who participated in the audit process.
The audit was the second conducted of a mobile voting pilot by a third-party organization, and addressed device security, voter identity, secure ballot storage, and end-to-end voter verifiable elections, which are the four areas of concern that have blocked progress in remote voting for over a decade, according to the announcement. Research by the University of Chicago has found that voter turnout among military members overseas was increased by three to five percent for the 2018 federal election in West Virginia due to their ability to vote with a mobile device. The academic report also showed that many voters are concerned about votes not being counted, however.
“I think there is good reason to be concerned,” Anthony Fowler, an associate professor at the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago and the report author told The Huntington Herald-Dispatch. “We are not really sure how secure it is. Cybersecurity people will tell you they are very concerned. There is no verifiable paper trail. You can always go back and audit a paper ballot, where here, if someone hacks into the votes network, you don’t know if it happened or how many votes were changed.”
Tusk Philanthropies Founder and CEO Bradley Tusk says it is the integrity of the existing system that worries him.
“Today’s existing infrastructure is outdated and vulnerable, and instead of continuing to use systems that we know are prone to hacking and interference, we are looking at advanced solutions such as blockchain and identity verification that offer an anonymous, secure, and transparent way to vote,” argues Tusk. “Twice now we have proved the best way to move forward is accompanying blockchain voting with an auditable paper trail to increase voter participation and security measures for upcoming elections.”
Voatz will soon be piloted in its third jurisdiction for active-duty military personnel and religious missionaries voting in Utah County.