Microsoft has teamed up with Hart InterCivic to launch the first major e-voting system that uses Microsoft’s free and open-source ElectionGuard software that ensures ballots are verifiable.
Microsoft released its ElectionGuard software development kit in the run-up to the 2020 US presidential election, promising a way to secure the integrity of votes placed on electronic voting machines.
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Microsoft’s system offers voters a tracking code on an election website where they can verify that their vote has been counted and not altered. The code also doesn’t reveal what party the voter chose. It relies on homomorphic encryption to allow polling officials to count votes while keeping the votes encrypted. Voting machines equipped with ElectionGuard can also print a paper ballot if needed.
Hart InterCivic will use ElectionGuard within its Verity voting machine system and is the first major voting machine maker in the US to use Microsoft’s software to provide end-to-end verifiability — that is, the ability for voters to check their vote was counted and not altered.
Trust in e-voting systems is a significant issue for the industry. The CEO of Florida-based e-voting vendor Smartmatic, Antonio Mugica, told Reuters in December that Donald Trump’s conspiracy theories about his company and rival Dominion Systems threatened the future of the e-voting industry.
“We believe we must constantly re-imagine how technology can make voting more secure and also more transparent, and this partnership with Microsoft is a strong step in that direction,” said Julie Mathis, CEO of Hart InterCivic.
“The combination of Hart voting machines with ElectionGuard technology delivering end-to-end verifiability provides election officials the ability to offer more transparency to the process of vote tabulation. Hart’s integration of ElectionGuard into Verity builds on our existing initiatives, such as voter-verifiable paper trails, support for risk-limiting audits, and never encoding voter selections in unreadable barcodes, as part of our continued commitment to voting technology innovation that results in higher levels of voter confidence in the election process.”
Hart will pilot Microsoft’s ElectionGuard in the Verity voting system, which is used in over 500 jurisdictions across 17 states, according to Microsoft.
Voters will be able to fill out a classic paper ballot or use Hart’s Verity Duo ballot marking device and then place their ballot into a Verity scanner.
After completing the scan, the voter gets a verification code and after ballots have been counted, voters can use their verification code on a website to confirm their vote was counted in the final election results.
Interested third parties can also confirm the tally by running the results through a verifier and comparing the output to the official election results, according to Microsoft.