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Ohio Lawmakers Propose Blockchain Voting in Elections Overhaul Bill

Democrats in the Ohio State 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’s 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 a further 16 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 read.

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

The Democrats’ proposed pilot comes as all internet-reliant voting systems, including those that use a blockchain, receive heavy scrutiny from a skeptical cadre of security researchers and experts who argue such systems are impossible to fully lock down.

“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,” said a lineup of co-signers to the American Association for the Advancement of Science in an April 9. letter to election officials.

Blockchain only added more possible attack vectors, they said.

Read more: West Virginia Ditches Blockchain Voting App Provider Voatz

Nevertheless, blockchain systems continue their march in the conversation around U.S. voting administration. A number of states already have limited blockchain pilots, and the tech even made it into a recent U.S. Senate memo on ensuring the continuity of Senate operations. Notably, fellow Ohioan, the Republican Senator Rob Portman, chairs that memo’s subcommittee.

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

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