Ohio Lawmakers Propose Blockchain Voting in Elections Overhaul Bill

Ohio lawmakers have proposed the launch of a blockchain voting pilot in spite of security experts' repeated warnings against any internet-based elections system.

AccessTimeIconMay 6, 2020 at 4:53 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 14, 2021 at 8:37 a.m. UTC
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Democrats in the Ohio House of Representatives have proposed launching a blockchain voting pilot for overseas military voters registered in the Buckeye State.

Introduced Tuesday as part of the Democrats’ elections law overhaul, the bill calls on Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose to “establish a pilot program” of blockchain voting specifically for uniformed service members stationed outside the U.S.

The bill was introduced by Reps. Beth Liston and Michele Lepore-Hagan, and cosponsored by 16 other Democrats.

The proposal is unusually detailed on blockchain’s role. If passed, it would see military members transmit their ballots to election officials via “encrypted blockchain technology” that “protects the security and integrity of the process and protects the voter's privacy.” The receiving board of elections would then print out that ballot “for counting purposes.”

“The Secretary of State shall select the boards of elections that shall participate in the pilot program,” the bill reads.

No technology vendor is named in the bill but multiple companies, including Cleveland-based Votem, build blockchain-based voting platforms that fit the Democrats’ bill. Others outside Ohio also build well-known blockchain voting tools, including Voatz, which has been used in Utah County, Utah, and in West Virginia military voting pilots.

The Democrats’ proposed pilot comes as all internet-reliant voting systems, including those using a blockchain, receive heavy scrutiny from security researchers and experts who argue such systems are impossible to make fully secure.

“Internet voting should not be used in the future until and unless very robust guarantees of security and verifiability are developed and in place, as no known technology guarantees the secrecy, security and verifiability of a marked ballot transmitted over the Internet,” according to signers of an American Association for the Advancement of Science April 9 letter to election officials

Blockchain only adds more possible attack vectors, they said.

Nevertheless, blockchain systems continue to be part of the conversation around U.S. voting administration. A number of states already have limited blockchain pilots underway, and the tech even made it into a recent U.S. Senate subcommittee memo on ensuring the continuity of Senate operations. Notably, Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican from Ohio, chairs the subcommittee issuing the memo.

LaRose, the top elections official for Ohio, did not respond to a request for comment.

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