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Utah County Makes History With Presidential Blockchain Vote

A resident in Utah County used the phone app Voatz to cast a vote in this year's presidential election. Voatz has played a part in several of the county's elections since last year.

digital voting
Last Tuesday, a Utah resident became the first person to cast a vote for president in a U.S. general election via a blockchain-based voting app on a personal cellphone, according to Fox News.

“This is a historic day not only for ballot integrity and election systems but for liberty and the republic itself,” said resident Josh Daniels. 

The vote in question was submitted in Utah County with the Voatz app, which has been piloted in a number of states, including West Virginia, Colorado and Oregon. Utah was the first state to hold a live demonstration of how Voatz ballots can be audited. 

Utah County Clerk/Auditor Amelia Powers Gardner — one of Government Technology’s Top 25 Doers, Dreamers and Drivers of 2020 — told Fox News that Voatz has been “one of the most cost-effective initiatives” that she and her team have implemented since her election in January 2019.

“In true pioneer spirit, Utah County is honored to be the first place where a blockchain vote was cast in a presidential general election,” Gardner said. “We are proud to lead our state and the nation on this innovative and cutting-edge technology.”

Utah County started utilizing Voatz in 2019 to give military voters a more secure voting option than email. The county eventually allowed voters with disabilities to use the app in a local election. 

Voatz has been criticized by the election security community as well as some politicians, including Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden. When Government Technology asked world-renowned security technologist Bruce Schneier if he could imagine a world where he could support online voting, he gave a non-enthusiastic answer.

“It would have to be a world where you almost never get a security update from Microsoft,” he said. “It might be a world where you almost never hear about a data breach at a company. It’s a world where ransomware doesn’t exist. It’s a really, really different world. I have a good imagination, but no time soon.”

When West Virginia piloted Voatz during the 2018 midterm election, there was an attempted hack on the app. However, Voatz and multiple officials said the attempted hack was "not close" to being successful. 

Security experts consider paper-based ballots the safest form of voting. In 2017, some states started moving back to paper after learning about various attempts to hack voting machines during the 2016 general election.  

Jed Pressgrove has been a writer and editor for about 15 years. He received a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in sociology from Mississippi State University.