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Election experts warn Chandler not to adopt mobile voting because it's 'dangerously insecure'

Published: Thursday, November 11, 2021 - 4:30pm

As Chandler runs a mock election using blockchain technology for mobile voting, an election advocacy group urged the city not to adopt what they called a “dangerously insecure” voting method.

Verified Voting, a non-partisan organization that advocates for paper ballots, issued a statement warning that “there is simply no secure way to electronically return voted ballots while protecting voter privacy, maintaining ballot secrecy and still providing a verifiable record of the voter’s intent.”

Chandler voters just cast ballots on five bond questions during the Nov. 2 election. Now the city is asking residents to download the Voatz app on their mobile phones as part of a pilot program. After verifying their identities, residents can recast votes on those same bond questions in the mock election.

City officials like Vice Mayor Mark Stewart say blockchain technology, which encrypts and decentralizes data, “can be a secure and convenient way for residents to vote.”

C.Jay Coles, a senior policy analyst with Verified Voting, doesn’t deny that blockchain tech is designed to keep information secure. But there’s no way of knowing whether the voter’s personal device — in this case, a cellphone — is secure.

“So is there anything on the voter's device that is malicious, that can alter what the voter is inputting in their own device before it is entered into the blockchain?” Coles said.

Once the vote has been cast and is secured using blockchain, “the voter has no idea if it was entered correctly, and the elections office has no way of knowing whether or not the voter's intent is accurately captured in that record, because you can't go back to the voter and ask them because that violates the right of a secret ballot,” Coles added.

Verified Voting broadly advocates against internet voting of any kind. Coles said one of the tenets of strong election systems is the ability to verify and audit election results.

“That requires hard copies. That requires paper so that the election officials can go back to that hardcopy,” he said.