Michigan Democratic Convention uses Blockchain for Voting

September 3, 2020

The Michigan Democratic Party used blockchain-based voting app Voatz to assist envoy voting at its convention for the fourth time, and it was held virtually this year.

Voatz, a blockchain-based voting platform, was initially used as a pilot for overseas military voting in West Virginia, has deployed its system for another group of remote voters: Michigan Democratic Party Convention attendees.

The successful conclusion of voting on the platform at Michigan’s Virtual Democratic Party Convention held last August 29 to August 30 was announced by Voatz today. This was when the delegates remotely nominated candidates for the state’s Supreme Court and other various positions. There are nearly 2,000 delegates who voted using the Voatz smartphone platform.

This is another proof-of-concept for blockchain-based voting; it is a topic that has been increasingly making headlines as COVID-19 keeps citizens at home, and mail-in vote develops a hot button civil issue.

All convention participants attended virtually from their homes as a precaution against COVID-19. To add to the Supreme Court nominations, delegates also voted on nominations to the state’s education board and administrative positions at the state universities. Out of 2,092 delegates, 91% voted using the Voatz app, while the latter voted using a helpdesk phone system.

“There were so many unique challenges with this year’s convention because of the pandemic, but the Voatz platform eased many of our concerns,” Chrisy Jensen, the Executive Director of Michigan Democratic Party, said.

“Voatz enabled our delegates to be verified remotely and participate through their smartphones. The convenience, safety and accessibility of voting this way was eye-opening for everyone who participated.”

In the past, Voatz has helped facilitate three previous Michigan Democratic Party conventions using an in-person, tablet-based system. They also facilitated remote voting at the Arizona Republican State Convention earlier this year.

In 2018, Voatz came into the public eye, thanks to a pilot that allowed West Virginia residents from selected counties stationed overseas to vote in midterms elections using the platform. After considering the pilot successful, the state officials deliberate to roll out the tool for overseas residents in every county for 2020 voting. Though, they changed course after MIT; researchers claimed to uncover security vulnerabilities in the Voatz system.

Voatz reacted to those accusations, testifying that the researchers executed their analysis on an outdated version of the mobile platform and trusted on expectations about the system’s server-side architecture, which they certainly not retrieved.

Voatz also pointed out that other research teams have been giving full access to source code and other system components. For remaining anonymous before publication and failed to present their findings to the Voatz team to address the issues raised.

Voting on the blockchain is increasingly working its way to the public eye, with the USPS recently proposing its blockchain-based voting system. The Michigan convention is another vote of confidence, even though a small one, that incontrovertible, decentralized ledgers may one day help ensure every voice is counted across the country.

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