This Voting App Will Let Some West Virginia Troops Cast Their Ballots From Abroad & It's A First

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Considering that you can do so many things, from casual banking to absent-minded shopping, with the ease of a swipe on smartphones now, it was only time that fulfilling your civic duty would morph into an app. For those from the Mountain State, the reality of it is here: people who are serving their military duties abroad and registered in West Virginia will be voting via phone app, according to CNN.

This new technological move is aimed at making it easier for soldiers overseas to vote in November's midterm elections, and West Virginia is restricting voting by app only to troops abroad. But though the ends are admirable enough, the means have alarmed some security experts, according to CNN. Critics have said the method of voting by smartphone is unsafe and creates another avenue of opportunity for hackers.

The greenlight into the crossroads between personal technology and civic duty comes at a fragile time. As United States intelligence agencies have reported, officials have been working to ward off Russian interference within its elections processes ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, according to The New York Times. Concern within the federal government over the integrity of the November races remains high after it was revealed that Russia also stoked divisive fires during the 2016 presidential election.

Though foreign hacking is, at the moment, the center of public attention, West Virginia officials seem to be confident that their mobile voting process will be secure. According to CNN, West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner and Voatz, the app development company, insist that the method is not vulnerable to digital attacks.

Some praised the idea on Twitter, with one user pointing out that work schedules often prevent people from getting to the voting booth before it closes. Others highlighted its test phase and praised blockchain technology. According to Bitcoin Magazine, the company avoids external attacks by incorporating a secure, immutable, digitally-secure ledger called blockchain. The ballots are also transformed into anonymous records.

But to be clear, the voting process through this app isn't as simple as writing your name, then hitting the button next to the candidate's name. Voatz outlined the process for voting with its app, and, according to CNN, users must register by first taking a picture of their government-issued identification and a selfie, in video form, of their face. After uploading these images to the app, facial recognition software ensures that the photo and video are actually of the same person, CNN reported. Once the voter has been cleared and approved, they can cast their vote.

Voatz tested its mobile voting tech earlier this year during the primary elections, according to State Tech Magazine, with no issues. But the decision to allow the app use will ultimately be left to each county within West Virginia. If the November elections go smoothly and without security issues, it may provide the justification for a more widespread use in future elections by people living within the United States.

"There is nobody that deserves the right to vote any more than the guys that are out there, and the women that are out there, putting their lives on the line for us," West Virginia's secretary of state said to CNN.