Critical Infrastructure Security, Critical Infrastructure Security, Network Security

State of security: West Virginia

Who's in charge: Secretary of State Mac Warner, Manager of Elections Donald Kersey

West Virginia is attempting something unprecedented in this year's 2018 elections: It will reportedly become the first state to allow residents and military members stationed abroad to vote in a general election using a mobile app.

Overseas absentee voters will use this app, which is supported by blockchain technology, instead of sending in their ballots electronically via email and fax, a process that's considered potentially vulnerable to hackers.

But the app, of course, is just another form of electronic voting, one whose merits have yet to be proven, experts have warned. The notion of blockchain sounds secure, but the technology isn't designed to prevent mobile malware from altering a vote as it's happening; it can only ensure that the record of the vote isn't changed after the fact. (The solution does provide a printed record of the vote, which will be emailed to local officials.)

Reportedly, 24 counties will accept votes via the app, a product of mobile elections platform provider Voatz. But this still likely affects only a few hundred voters.

For the rest of the state, West Virginians will use a mix of paper-based ballots and direct-recording electronic machines. Of the Mountain State's 55 counties, 19 will use only paper ballots, 24 will use DREs, and the remainder will feature both options (although most will use paper in those counties).

Fortunately, the DRE machines are the kind that include a voter-verified paper audit trail. West Virginia uses the iVotronic touchscreen solution from Elections Systems & Software.

This year, the state was awarded around $3.6 million in federal funds, to be allocated toward elections security via the Help America Vote Act. But the office of Secretary of State Mac Warner says that with additional matching funds, West Virginia will have made over $12 million in election equipment updates and physical security improvements through 2020. The state expects 43 percent of voters to be using updated equipment by this year's midterms, and 64 of voters to have new equipment by the next presidential election.

West Virginia's mandatory audits are wisely conducted by hand, yet the Center for American Progress says they are still missing some important criteria and that the number of ballots are based on a fixed amount instead proportional to the margin of victory.

Current protections to the state's voter registration system include access control, logging and intrusion protection, the Center for American Progress reports. And all voting machines are tested to meet the standards of the Election Assistance Commission.

Bradley Barth

As director of multimedia content strategy at CyberRisk Alliance, Bradley Barth develops content for online conferences, webcasts, podcasts video/multimedia projects — often serving as moderator or host. For nearly six years, he wrote and reported for SC Media as deputy editor and, before that, senior reporter. He was previously a program executive with the tech-focused PR firm Voxus. Past journalistic experience includes stints as business editor at Executive Technology, a staff writer at New York Sportscene and a freelance journalist covering travel and entertainment. In his spare time, Bradley also writes screenplays.

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