The Utah GOP convention which was held on April 25, reportedly selected their nominees using the blockchain-based platform Voatz.
The platform has been criticized before now for various security vulnerabilities in its previous application for similar purposes. According to a report by Forbes, the co-founder and CEO of Voatz, Nimit Sawhney, stated that the platform had “performed as expected” and that it was able to process 93% of delegate votes that were registered.
Positive Reviews for Voatz
Derek Brown, Utah’s GOP chairman expressed the satisfaction with the results after using the app from the overwhelmingly positive feedback. The turnout of the convention was also significantly higher than others that had applied the system, possibly pointing to the fact that some of its previously pointed out lapses in terms of capacity had been tackled.
Brown also had the following to say about Voatz:
“Using Voatz allowed us to digitally recreate our usual convention procedures and implement technology in a way that made the process more convenient and secure.”
Voatz as designed to use blockchain technology to verify the identity of individuals using features like biometrics and facial recognition. The application has been seen more often recently as it is still subject to pilot tests for political parties, universities, non-profit organizations, among others.
In the global scene, the traditional system of the electoral process comes with a lot of challenges. Top of the list is rigging bad violence, especially for developing and underdeveloped countries. Sawhney described the need to protect the sanctity of voting, citing India in 1984 — after the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi — as a horrific example:
“Our families were targeted,” said Sawhney, in a Techcrunch video. “A lot of people were killed. Soon after there were elections. Some things we saw as little kids were very shocking. Just the picture of somebody forcing you to vote at gunpoint.”
However, the platform has seen its fair share of controversy since it was launched. Recent reports have warned about security flaws in the platform.
Under heat for vulnerability issues
Earlier on, a study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that, aside from the issue of privacy, Voatz was tackling with some “vulnerabilities that allow different kinds of adversaries to alter, stop, or expose a user’s vote, including a side-channel attack in which a completely passive network adversary can potentially recover a user’s secret ballot.”
In Voatz defence, Jonathan Johnson, CEO of Overstock and president of Medici Ventures, commented on the issue:
“We believe that the Voatz technology is responsible and safe; it not only prevents voting fraud, but it also protects the privacy of each voter,” Johnson said, in a statement. “The Voatz app even generates a paper ballot that can be audited to guarantee the fidelity of the vote. This is, we believe, the right path forward to safe innovation in election technology. We should not let ourselves derail the future of voting.”
Medici Ventures is also a subsidiary that has invested in Voatz
A second study from a third party audit body for Voatz and major financial backer Tusk Philanthropies stated that it had found 79 problems with the app, this also included issues related to data verification and security controls.
“We join other researchers in remaining skeptical of the security provided by blockchain-based solutions to voting, and believe that this serves as an object lesson in security — that the purported use of a series of tools does not indicate that a solution provides any real guarantees of security,” the MIT researchers concluded. “It remains unclear if any electronic-only mobile or Internet voting system can practically overcome the stringent security requirements on election systems.”