West Virginia pushes online voting for the disabled
West Virginia is expanding its electronic voting application to better accommodate absentee voters with physical disabilities.
Senate Bill 94 was introduced Jan. 8 at the request of Secretary of State Mac Warner, a vocal proponent of the mobile app the state has used to allow overseas members of the military to vote on their mobile phones. The app, created by Voatz, protects ballots by biometrics and blockchain technology.
Gov. Jim Justice signed the bill into law on Feb. 3.
With the Voatz app, voters verify their identity through the app by uploading a driver’s license, state ID or passport along with a selfie. Once the identity is confirmed with facial recognition technology, voters get a mobile ballot based on the one that they would receive at their local precinct. A tamperproof ledger "ensures anonymity of each ballot,” Voatz CEO Nimit Sawhney told GCN in 2018, before the app's use in the state's primary. “Blockchain provides an end-to-end verification trail where you have trust that all of the data in the system is accurate.”
The bill was aimed at avoiding an Americans with Disabilities lawsuit, Donald “Deke” Kersey, general counsel for the Secretary of State’s Office, told the News and Sentinel. West Virginia's code requires disabled persons who want to vote absentee be blind, unable to use their hands or "permanently and totally disabled," according to the Register-Herald. SB 94 would change the definition of disability to align with that of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which defines physical disability as "a physical impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities and renders a person unable to vote in person, at the polls, without assistance."
Local county clerks can decide what electronic absentee voting system to use to ensure disabled voters can cast a vote, but the Secretary of State’s Office already has a free electronic solution counties can use, according to the News and Sentinel's report.
Cybersecurity experts have repeatedly warned against the online voting app West Virginia uses, and those concerns may have been warranted. An attempt was made to hack into the mobile voting system during the 2018 election, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia Mike Stuart revealed in October.
Nevertheless, state and local governments continue to experiment with the technology.
Voters in King County, Wash., will be able to vote for members of the King Conservation District board of supervisors online by logging onto an online portal from a computer, tablet or smartphone to access their ballot.
On Jan. 24, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla issued conditional approval of the Voting Solutions for All People (VSAP) 2.0 voting system, a publicly owned, open-source solution that uses computerized ballot marking devices for use in the March 3 presidential primary election.
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