Washington, D.C. – Ohio will be the first state in the nation to use blockchain technology for tax payments. Businesses will be able to pay 23 types of taxes via bitcoin.
But if blockchain is secure enough for a government to collect money from companies, why hasn’t it been given the green light for widespread use in securing our votes?
West Virginia used a new blockchain pilot program to allow military men and women, as well as their families, to cast their votes in the midterm elections using smartphones. On November 15, Max Warner, West Virginia’s secretary of state reported remote blockchain voting a success in an official announcement.
Currently, West Virginia ranks 44th of 50 states in voter turnout, according to the United States Elections Project. And according to Symantec, 18% of the 2 million service members and their families serving overseas received ballots in 2016. Rejections and tardy ballots meant that 11% of those votes counted.
The app secures and stores the digital votes using facial recognition software. It then distributes and stores the votes in a digital lockbox in 16 locations, making it relatively tough for a hacker to access the information.
Amid heightened fears of election meddling, this experiment could help determine whether blockchain has a place in election security. But experts warn that mobile voting comes with risks in preserving anonymity and in transferring votes from smartphones infected with malware.
J. Alex Halderman, a University of Michigan computer science professor, says this form of voting is hype at this point.
The Power of Attraction
Where West Virginia wants to attract voters with blockchain, Ohio wants to attract more business. Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel told the Cincinnati Enquirer that “[i]t’s important for Ohio to plant the flag as a national leader in blockchain technology.”
Businesses will only be charged a 1% payment fee compared to 2.5% for credit card payments.
Meanwhile, West Virginians stationed in Egypt, Mexico, Japan, Albania, Botswana, and two dozen others were able to have their voices heard via the biggest blockchain-based voting test ever.
“It’s already been very successful,” said Michael Queen, deputy chief of staff to West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner. “We’re very pleased with the participation.”
Based on the high level of security required to carry out both tax payments and voting, it seems entirely feasible that blockchain technology could be used on a broader scale very soon.