The U.S. may be one of the most recognizable democracies in the world, but when it comes to showing up to vote on election days, it has a less-than-stellar reputation.
In fact, only 55.6 percent of eligible voters showed up to vote in the 2016 presidential election, landing the United States in 26th place out of 32 countries in voter turnout, placing the U.S. between Estonia and Luxembourg, according to a study by Pew Research.
Voatz believes it has a solution, and it’s sitting in our pockets.
Based in Boston, the company has created a platform that combines blockchain, biometrics and encryption to let people vote securely from a smartphone or tablet. While the company has drawn its share of skeptics, it’s picking up steam across the country.
What Voatz is doing to allow more registered voters to participate remotely in elections in a safe and secure way is important.”
The company completed a successful pilot during West Virginia’s 2018 midterm elections and announced another pilot in Denver in March 2019 for their municipal elections, where it will be used as an absentee voting method for deployed military personnel. On Wednesday, the company received another vote of confidence, this time from investors in the form of a $7 million Series A round.
Medici Ventures led the round along with Techstars. Jonathan Johnson, president of Medici Ventures, said in statement that he saw in Voatz a new way to boost voter participation and turnout.
“Voting is a great application of blockchain technology,” said Medici Ventures President Jonathan Johnson. “What Voatz is doing to allow more registered voters to participate remotely in elections in a safe and secure way is important. It bodes well for more widespread adoption of the Voatz application. That’s one reason we’ve increased our investment in the company by leading this Series A round.”
Voatz launched in 2015 with the goal of making voting more accessible through mobile devices. The company chose smartphones because that’s the platform most voting-age Americans have access to, including 94 percent of people 18 to 29, according to the company.
The platform can only be accessed by invitation from a state’s election officials, the company said. From there, the app requires a three-step authentication process that requires a picture, biometric proof (either facial recognition or fingerprint scan) and a scan of a driver’s license or passport. Once the voter is approved, they are sent a notice to vote on election day.
From there, it’s as easy as filling out an order on Grubhub. Once the boxes are checked and submitted, the information is scrambled through a mixnet, to avoid tracing back to the source and posted to the blockchain, according to the company.
Voatz participated in the Techstars Boston Accelerator in 2017, and has been used to cast 80,000 votes since 2016.
Voatz plans to use the funds to improve the accessibility and usability of its tech, improve its security and launch new pilot programs with states, cities and international jurisdictions. The company aims to continue its mission of improving election infrastructure and boost voter turnout, said Nimit Sawhney, Voatz co-founder and CEO in a statement.
“We are delighted and grateful for the continued support of our existing and new investors to help us accelerate the development and deployment of our technology,” Sawhney said. “We are committed to the steady progress of mobile voting backed by blockchain technology to improve our election infrastructure and make remote voting more accessible and safer.”
In addition to Medici Ventures and Techstars, the round included participation from Urban Innovation Fund and Oakhouse Partners.