West Virginia Secretary of State Reports Successful Blockchain Voting in 2018 Midterm Elections

The Secretary of State of the U.S. state of West Virginia Mac Warner reported a successful first instance of remote blockchain voting in an official announcement Nov. 15.

Warner stated that in the 2018 midterm elections, 144 military personnel stationed overseas from 24 counties were able to cast their ballots on a mobile, blockchain-based platform called Voatz, adding:

“This is a first-in-the-nation project that allowed uniformed services members and overseas citizens to use a mobile application to cast a ballot secured by blockchain technology.”

Voting for the general elections on the platform started in September, when absentee balloting opened in West Virginia.

The first trial of the new platform took place during the state’s primary elections in April. Blockchain-based ballots were then restricted to a select group of voters such as deployed military members and other citizens eligible to vote absentee under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) and their spouses and dependents.

The Voatz system was initially developed to address the issue of low voter participation among members of the military. According to Symantec — the firm behind the Voatz system — only 368,516, or 18 percent of the 2 million service members and their families serving overseas received ballots in 2016. After counting rejections and tardy ballots, only 11 percent of said votes were counted.

While Warner noted the project’s success, his deputy chief of staff Michael Queen told the Washington Post that they have no plans for expanding the program beyond military personnel serving overseas:

“Secretary Warner has never and will never advocate that this is a solution for mainstream voting.”

According to data from the United States Elections Project, West Virginia ranks 44th of 50 states in voter participation at 42.6 percent.

Some experts have expressed concern over the safety of mobile voting. Joseph Lorenzo Hall, the Chief Technologist at the Center for Democracy and Technology, claimed:

“Mobile voting is a horrific idea. It’s Internet voting on people’s horribly secured devices, over our horrible networks, to servers that are very difficult to secure without a physical paper record of the vote.”

Conversely, Bradley Tusk of Tusk Montgomery Philanthropies has encouraged mobile voting, stating that it can turn out more voters, and as a result, “democracy would work a lot better.” Tusk Montgomery Philanthropies helped fund the Voatz app’s development.

US: Crypto Initiative Donates Monero to Bail Out Immigrants in ICE Detention

The Bail Bloc initiative has started using cryptocurrency raised through charity to help people get out of U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) pretrial incarceration, according to a tweet posted by a Bail Bloc co-founder Nov. 15.

ICE is a law enforcement agency of the federal government of the U.S, the mission of which is to monitor cross-border crime and illegal immigration. In 2017, the agency conducted 143,470 overall administrative arrests, 92 percent of which resulted in a criminal conviction or a pending criminal charge.

In ICE detention people are required to pay an immigration bond in exchange for their immediate-term release, although statistically only 47 percent of those in detention are given a bond hearing. Those who cannot afford to pay the bond, or who are not granted a bond at all, must wait for their court hearing while detained, which could last from months to years.

Bail Bloc has set a goal to help charged immigrants pay their bail with money raised through cryptocurrency mining. The initiative has released an app that consumes a small portion — from 10 percent by default to 50 percent optionally — of users’ computer power to mine Monero (XMR) once it is installed.

The organization states that at the end of every month it exchanges XMR for U.S. dollars and donates the earnings to the Immigrant Bail Fund in New Haven, Connecticut. Bail Bloc has reportedly mined 44.34 XMR, which equates to $7,356.36 U.S. dollars. This sum is enough to bail out 12 people, per the organization’s website.

Bail Bloc says it chose XMR as it is an ASIC-resistant cryptocurrency, meaning that consumer-level computers are able to mine the coin “in a financially viable way,” while computers designed with the sole purpose of crypto mining cannot.

ICE’s approach to immigration policy enforcement has sparked significant controversy in the U.S. In May, reports of federal authorities losing track of nearly 1,500 immigrant children in their custody made headlines. As the Washington Post reported, the children had been separated from their immigrant parents. Per the policy of prosecuting “100 percent” of those crossing the border illegally, children were separated from their parents as the adults were charged with a crime.

At press time, XMR is trading at around $87, down 0.82 percent over the past 24 hours, according to CoinMarketCap. The coin’s market capitalization is around $1.4 billion, while its daily trading volume is about $18.9 million.

Russia: Sberbank CEO Says Industrial Scale Blockchain Adoption Is 1-2 Years Away

The head of major state-owned Russian bank Sberbank has forecast that blockchain adoption will happen on an industrial scale in one to two years, local news agency TASS reported Nov. 13.

Speaking to journalists this week, Sberbank CEO Herman Gref explained that the technology is entering the stage of its industrial development:

“The hype around the technology [blockchain] is now over, and the technology is entering the stage of industrial development. It needs a year or two to be implemented at the industrial scale.”

Gref argued that global markets are “not yet ready” for large-scale commercial adoption of blockchain, given the “immaturity of the technology.”

Earlier in October, Gref gave a more general timeframe for blockchain adoption, stating it would be “ready” in three to five years, but not specifying on which scale.

Sberbank is actively involved in blockchain trials, along with other major Russian banks and institutions. In December 2017, Sberbank partnered with Russia’s Federal Antimonopoly Service to store documents and transfer data on blockchain.

Later in June, Sberbank partnered with Alfa Bank to test cryptocurrency-based investment options for retail investors. In October, Sberbank became an advisor to state-owned power giant Rosseti in order to help it trial blockchain solutions.

Another bank, the Russian branch of Raiffeisen Bank, announced recently that it would implement blockchain to issue digital mortgages and bank guarantees, planning to expand the implementation of technology to other areas.