Thursday, November 26, 2020

Overstock Touts Voatz Blockchain Voting App as Solution to US Election Fracas

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Days before a U.S. presidential election marred by court fights over vote counting and partisan allegations of rampant mail-in ballot fraud, Overstock.com is once again touting what it calls a solution: blockchain voting.

“If [voting] doesn’t work as well as it should, next week think about how Voatz could have solved that,” Overstock chief Jonathan Johnson told investors during OSTK’s Oct. 29 earnings call.

Johnson, who is also president of Overstock’s blockchain investments subsidiary Medici Ventures, was referring to the Medici-backed mobile voting app Voatz, which claims to use blockchain technology to secure users’ vote.

Elections officials in 29 of America’s 3,141 counties have allowed certain absentee voters to cast ballots via Voatz in past elections, Johnson said. He noted that one county in Utah is using Voatz in next week’s contest. More partners are on the way, he said.

Johnson’s comments suggest that Medici sees an even wider opening for its mobile voting company in the wake of next week’s election. Voting experts are anticipating a messy and lengthy vote count that could cloud the rhetorically charged presidential race with yet more uncertainty.

Whether Voatz works as well as it should is similarly uncertain.

MIT security researchers blasted the app’s cybersecurity safeguards in a February 2020 paper that the company called unfair and inaccurate. Voatz said at the time it had addressed vulnerabilities identified in a separate U.S. Department of Homeland Security cyber audit.

There have been other hiccups, too. Weeks prior to MIT’s report, a Voatz service outage threatened to derail Tufts University’s student senate races. Elections officials at the school fear the shutdown may have depressed turnout. Voatz called that outage “precautionary.”