By Associated Press - Tuesday, February 18, 2020

PROVO, Utah (AP) - Utah County expects to use a mobile voting application in elections this year despite concerns raised by cybersecurity researchers, county clerk officials said.

Voatz utilizes blockchain and facial recognition technology to enable certain residents to vote without having to submit a ballot by mail or in person, the Daily Herald reported Monday.

The application “is vulnerable to a number of attacks that could violate election integrity,” researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology said in a paper published Thursday. They also recommended that “any near-future plans to use this app for high-stakes elections be abandoned.”

Utah County was one of the few places in the country to pilot the application last year and expect to continuing using the mobile program, officials said.

“We looked at their findings and we looked at our system, and we’re not really concerned because … they were using a version of the app that is 27 versions old,” Utah County Clerk Amelia Powers Gardner said. “If someone trying to vote in our election tried to use that version of the app, they would get an error message and they would get told that they needed to update their app before they could cast their vote.”

Mobile voting is only offered to select demographics, including military personnel stationed overseas and residents with physical disabilities, Gardner said. Federal law requires these residents be given additional voting options.

Another available option would be to vote by email, which Gardner has said is less secure than Voatz.

The Boston-based startup company that designed Voatz argued that “these attempts effectively choke any meaningful conversation and learnings around the safe integration of technology to improve accessibility and security in our elections.”

Only 22 of 83 voters who were eligible to use the app did so in the 2019 primaries, and 64 of the 192 eligible voters used the app to vote in the general election, officials said.

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