The US Postal Service has secretly tested a blockchain mobile voting system


Mobile voting hasn’t had much traction in the US, but that’s apparently not for a lack of trying. The US Postal Service has confirmed to The Washington Post that it has secretly developed and tested a blockchain-based mobile voting system ahead of the 2020 elections. The project was purely “exploratory” and was halted in 2019 after researchers from the University of Colorado security flaws, including the risks of impersonation, denial-of-service attacks, and “techniques” that compromised privacy.

However, it is perhaps the lack of transparency that is of most concern. The USPS did not coordinate with other federal agencies and asked the university to sign a nondisclosure agreement that prevented them from naming the institution involved. Election security officials just hearing about the blockchain voting project feared it could erode confidence in the democratic system already tarnished by unsupported claims of significant fraud during the 2020 vote.

The Post has previously considered e-voting, but turned its attention to those who cannot vote easily, such as soldiers and people with disabilities. This was a practical exercise that could have applied to a large number of voters, not just a small group who cannot realistically use mail or personal voting.

The end result was the same with or without the test: The 2020 elections continued to rely on paper ballots, and federal agencies focused more on establishing a paper trail to reduce the chance that Russia and other actors would tamper with the vote. However, the unveiling shows that there was no fully united front, suggesting that voting by smartphone isn’t going to take off anytime soon.

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