July 16, 2020  |  BOSTON

West Virginia is one of the best examples of how to build voter access across all demographics. This week, we shine a light on the Mountain State, recognizing its pioneering work under the leadership of Gov. Jim Justice and Secretary of State Mac Warner to build a resilient election system that stands up to the challenges of COVID-19 and ensures all voters have safe, secure access to the polls.

West Virginia was one of the first states in the country to understand the limitations of “traditional” forms of absentee voting for deployed military personnel, Americans abroad, and people with disabilities. It recognized that mail-in ballots, email, and fax were inefficient, difficult to use, and actually disenfranchised the voters they were focused on helping.

In 2018 West Virginia took the extraordinary step of piloting new technology and expanding options that addressed these issues — and they did it two years in advance of this year’s general elections by piloting secure, private ballots through mobile phones.

Initially, the state didn’t get enough credit for its leadership in voting access. Some members of the media, a few academics, and other skeptics have discounted and questioned the state’s decision to embrace the expansion of voting options by administering well-designed, measurable pilots. Disregarding the need for access and the necessity to prepare for the 2020 election season, a few have even called for such pilots to be halted.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed everything, validating West Virginia’s foresight, its astute state leadership, and the efficacy of their solution.

We are proud to be a small part of West Virginia’s bold and important initiative. In 2018, Voatz was the platform used to launch the first-in-the-nation pilot allowing overseas Americans to vote through a smartphone app-based platform. As stated in an op-ed by Secretary of State Warner, “We witnessed a volunteer in a remote West African village, a professor on an overseas sabbatical, a deployed paratrooper, and people in 30 countries vote safely with the app.”

Representatives from West Virginia have made great efforts to call our attention to the remote voting challenges for these groups, and to take real action. In 2019, Governor Justice signed SB-94 into law, pioneering the way for people with disabilities to vote in elections electronically. Disabled voters have been receiving the message that, given the clear obstacles in their path, their votes are not equal. This exemplary bill works to right a longstanding wrong and charts a course for future elections.

At Voatz, we are dedicated to supporting leaders like those in West Virginia who are making voting accessible for everyone. We celebrate and support West Virginia for its dedication to setting a new standard. Thank you, West Virginia, for creating a roadmap for the rest of the country.

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Behind the Scenes:
A Security Story

When solving the voter access challenge, the most significant objection West Virginia faced concerned security. The State had found the technology partners, a solution that satisfied security criteria, met the standards for voter ease of use, the ability to audit, and full integration with their existing infrastructure.

During the 2018 midterm election pilot, the Voatz system detected and blocked several unsuccessful attempts to gain entry to the West Virginia election. Election officials, the West Virginia leadership and Voatz were ready for these attempts, having implemented a system built on a multi-layered approach to defense.

The West Virginia pilot project not only answered the pressing question of how to provide access to voters, but also successfully identified, thwarted, and reported to the jurisdiction all attempts to tamper with the system. This proved for the first time that it is indeed possible to build a resilient remote voting system - one that detects, blocks and reports attempted attacks. 

West Virginia Pilot Timeline

SEP 2018

Voting with Voatz pilot in West Virginia begins

OCT 2018

Voatz blocks, thwarts attempted entry on its live system

NOV 2018

At the completion of the election, Voatz shares all attempted attacks on its live system with West Virginia

NOV 2018

West Virginia refers unsuccessful attempt to law enforcement

OCT 2019

U.S. Attorney's Office releases statement about their investigation

OCT 2019

West Virginia releases statement about their reporting and subsequent investigation

OCT 2019

Media and activists misreport that Voatz reported a researcher to the FBI, and continue to propagate misinformation

The West Virginia pilot has proven to be an ideal test case, setting a standard for election pilots and work across the country. This has quieted many voices of opposition, though a few of the loudest continue to call for an end to all work in this area.

Perhaps the most difficult and staunch opponents went so far as to mischaracterize the successful election pilot and security data points. It has even been misreported in multiple publications that Voatz reported hackers and researchers to the FBI, or intended to harm researchers. As we have repeatedly confirmed, this is blatantly false.

As stewards of our critical infrastructure, representatives of West Virginia called upon the US Attorney's Office and held a press conference to issue their report on the attack, which reflected a system that was successful in warding off attempted entry.

At this event, United States Attorney Mike Stuart issued a strong statement emphasizing the seriousness of election security.

Throughout all pilots, our commitment has been to the process of learning and sharing information that will chart a way forward to a resilient election system. This is an ongoing challenge that requires collaboration, development, piloting, and auditing.

Some of the attack patterns we’ve identified from each of our recent elections (anonymized with permission from jurisdictions) will be interesting for anyone committed to securing elections. Voatz will host a webinar on this topic very soon — contact us if you would like an invitation.

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BBC World Service featured Voatz in a deep dive segment on mobile voting. The segment opens with an interview with the Voatz Co-Founder and CEO.

Listen  →


We are proud to announce a partnership with Take Back Action Fund, a non-profit that is dedicated to making sure everyone can join the electoral process. Through this partnership, we will champion secure voting options for those who cannot or who are challenged to vote in person or on paper. This effort launches conversations with non-profits, military service members, and local disability rights groups in West Virginia.


One Ballot’s Journey: From a Village in West Africa to West Virginia

When it came time for Amiti Maloy to vote in the 2018 U.S. Midterm Elections, finding a way to make sure she could — all the way from her tiny village in a country with no postal system — was critical.


Voting From the Sky: The First Mobile Blockchain Vote in History

Scott Warner was the first, ever, to vote in a U.S. Federal Election using a smartphone backed by blockchain technology, and he did so on March 18, 2018 from Vicenza, Italy. He’d completed an airborne operation earlier that day, went home, downloaded the app, verified his identity, and made his selections



Contact us to join our security webinar.

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Follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn to stay in the loop with updates!

If you are in West Virginia, contact your election officials to learn more about opportunities to vote online. Show them your support.

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