UPDATED 9:47 AM PT — Thursday, June 6, 2019
A smart phone app called Voatz has resurfaced in the hands of a new developer just in time for the 2020 elections. Bradley Tusk, who was also the driving force behind Uber and Bird scooters, said the electronic platform will allow people to vote without having to visit the polls. While he claims the technology is a potential cure for a “ailing democracy,” security experts say it’s a potential disaster.
“Every form of electing people comes with a certain amount of problems, a certain amount of risks,” Tusk explained. “The question should be: how do we minimize the risk while maximizing participation?”
He was referencing the mere 20-percent of young people who voted in the 2018 midterm elections. Tusk said the app’s efficiency could be the solution. He also suggested that it could cater to several other groups, including military members deployed overseas.
“If you give people the ability to advocate politically from their phones they’ll do it,” said Tusk.
The first test run was last year in the state of West Virginia. According to reports, military members used the app to cast 144 votes in 30 different countries. Each voter’s identity was verified using their phone’s facial and fingerprint recognition software. Then their virtual ballot was cast directly to the Secretary of State’s Office and stored in an encrypted database known as blockchain.
“The blockchain is transparent in that all the transactions, all the votes are there, but they can be stored there either in open format or cryptographically protected,” stated Michael Allman, founder and CEO of Voterfied.
Blockchain start-ups have seen a considerable rise in funding recently, but industry leaders are skeptical of it’s vulnerability to hackers. For example Bank of America’s technology chief — Cathy Bessant — said she is doubtful blockchain will amount to anything in the near term. Her views are backed by the National Academies, which published a report suggesting the app could be breached and redesigned to rig votes.
Meanwhile, Tusk is meeting with election officials across the U.S. to get 25 more pilot programs. He predicts Americans will be casting ballots by phone as soon as 2028.