You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Wedding, sealing ceremony, missing marriage license: How blockchain prevented disaster

KUTV Salt Lake City 6/23/2022 MacKenzie Ryan & Chris Jones, KUTV

Once exclusively associated with cryptocurrency, blockchain technology is seeping into everyday government and industry operations as a means to authenticate goods, votes, and even marriage licenses. 

Utah County is part of small selection of counties across the country that are using the technology to authenticate marriage licenses and votes for uniformed and overseas citizens and people with disabilities. 

A Utah's Growing Pains investigation found this cutting-edge technology, lauded for its transparency and unhackability, may saves Utahns from lost or missing paper documents and verify votes digitally. 

A Love Story, A Sealing Ceremony, and a Missing Marriage License

"We are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and had planned to be married in one of the temples," explains Chrissy Keller Hunt. 

Hunt and her now-husband, Bradford, got engaged in October 2020. In a whirlwind, they planned a wedding for the following month. 

Due to COVID restrictions regarding how many people were allowed in the temple, Chrissy and Bradford decided to get marriage civilly at Sundance. 

© Provided by KUTV Salt Lake City

The youngest of ten siblings, Hunt worked with her large family to coordinate a adults-only wedding. 

It came down to the wire. 

Hunt says then-Governor Gary Herbert extended COVID restrictions the day before the ceremony and she thought her wedding might get cancelled. 

Hunt's brother married her and Bradford. 

What Happens When Marriage Licenses and Other Government-Issued Documents Can't Be Found

Three months into their marriage, Hunt got pregnant. She describes a difficulty pregnancy, including a tear in her placenta, that required her full attention. 

"I, you know, in the thick of it just assumed that he or my parents or my husband’s parents or my husband would, you know, take the marriage license and keep it safe somewhere. And I completely forgot about it. You know, you don’t need it once you’re married." 

For religious reasons, she says her husband expressed how it important it was for them to get sealed in the temple before their baby was born. The sealing ceremony is customary among Latter-day Saints who believe marriage will last beyond death. When they scheduled their sealing ceremony last fall, Hunt again coordinated with her large family so members could travel for it. 

"The temple kept sending me emails, asking, you know, we need this certain documentation and we have to have it in order to get sealed in the state." 

But Hunt and her husband couldn't find their marriage license anywhere. The pressure mounted. Hunt describes being frantic, calling every number she had to get a copy. 

"The soonest we were told they could get it [at the temple] would be two days at the very soonest and that was too late for us."

Formerly Used for Crypto Only, Blockchain Technology Now Authenticates Goods, Votes--and Marriage Licenses

Utah County uses blockchain technology, a digital ledger, to authenticate marriage licenses. 

When the Hunts got married, their license generated a unique number on that ledger. 

As a result, they could place a quick call to Utah County Commissioner Amelia Powers Gardner, who emailed them a digital copy of their marriage license right away. 

Gardner pushed for Utah County to start using blockchain technology back in 2019, when she was still the county clerk. 

© Provided by KUTV Salt Lake City

She at first focused on having it authenticate votes for uniformed and overseas citizens as well as people with disabilities. Mail, she says, is unreliable. Email is more reliable, but hackable, she contends. 

"We started exploring what we can we ensure they get to vote, and that it’s secure, that we verify their identity, and that they have a secret ballot. We stumbled upon, at the time there was only one vendor that did that. It was blockchain voting with an app called Votes." 

Gardner explains that voters take a picture of their government-issued ID and then a selfie video to verify their identity. The county checks that ID against their voter registration list and delivers the ballot to the citizen's phone. 

"It records their vote in a blockchain, a transparent distributed ledger with a cryptographic key, so they know that’s their vote, but we don’t," she adds. "Then on election day, we would literally print a ballot based on what was record in the blockchain." 

Transparent But Unhackable: One Expert Says Blockchain Could Eliminate Government Corruption

Director of Kahlert Initiative on Technology Curtis Morley says the blockchain represents a series of transactions on a digital ledger. When you do a transaction, he says, each "block" on the chain would record that transaction. He argues that it makes every transaction transparent. 

In order to hack an entire chain, Morley says you would have to simultaneously go and hack every single block on the chain, which could total in the millions. Then, you would need to rewrite every transactions. 

"What that means is there’s not one entity or person that controls it, it’s actually controlled by the entire group, the entire block, or the entire chain." 

Morley says the original use for blockchain technology was cryptocurrency, but it's since evolved. 

Now, it's being used to authenticated goods, such as artisan cheese from France, and subsequently prevent counterfeiting. 

He told 2News blockchain technology will transform how businesses and governments are run, streamlining processes and addressing issues with government corruption. 

"We could eliminate corruption if all government spending was done through some type of blockchain. It could make it completely transparent, and be able to eliminate government fraud." 

The end users of blockchain technology, like the Hunts, won't necessarily notice the ins and outs of how the technology operates, but certainly will notice the consumer benefits. 

There needs to be a way to access this that’s safe and secure but readily available," Hunt points out. "If you’re robbed or something gets stolen or lost, I mean what do you do? In this case, with our marriage license, it was an absolute lifesaver for us.

The Hunts ultimately got sealed on their one-year wedding anniversary. Their son was born two weeks later. 

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon