Two West Virginia counties, Harrison and Monongalia, are going to trial a technology that has never been utilized before in the U.S. The authorities will implement biometric mobile voting technology for military members who cannot be physically present during the voting period due to their deployment outside the U.S.
Harrison county clerk Susan Thomas said that the authorities will consider the military members, their spouses and dependents, and other U.S. citizens who are deployed and fall under the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act as eligible participants of the program for the upcoming May 8 primary election. Also, they should be registered in either Harrison or Monongalia counties to be eligible for this program.
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The mobile voting technology will use facial recognition technology to compare a user’s selfie to the picture of a photo ID they scan. After a successful verification process, the app will register the user and issue a ballot.
After filling out the ballot and clicking on the vote button, the registrant will need to take another selfie or submit a thumbprint for further biometric authentication. Then, the data will require further verification from the county clerk, staff from the Secretary of State’s office, and staff of the biometric solution provider company.
The votes will be secured via blockchain technology and the responsible staff will receive an encrypted key to decrypt and count the votes.
The authorities have long been searching for a viable voting technology solution for absentee voters. Donald Kersey, the deputy legal counsel and elections officer commented, “We did look for solutions that are secured by different kinds of technology, but they included applications and desktop websites that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. This was something we didn’t think was a responsible use of our resources, so we sought out another avenue.”
They found this technology to be highly effective and are hopeful that it will increase voter turnout and participation in U.S. elections through mobile voting. At the same time, it is also challenging for them as it is a fresh idea that has never been attempted before in the U.S.
“The catch — it’s never been done before in the history of the United States. But we were OK with that,” Kersey said.
Harrison County Deputy Clerk John Spires added, “We always talk about trying to get more people to vote, and this is a great way to do that. If this trial performs well, then it could be implemented to other counties in the state for the general election in November.”