In May 2019, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced ElectionGuard, a free open-source software development kit (SDK) for our “Defend Democracy” program. ElectionGuard is designed to be accessible, and it will make voting more secure, verifiable and efficient anywhere used in the United States or democracies around the world.
Product demonstrations are much quieter than typical large technology releases. No flashing lights or hordes of company employees cheering on their products, such as Microsoft’s dual-screen phone, the highly anticipated dual-screen laptop or the new Xbox SeriesX.
If all goes well, ElectionGuard‘s influence will far exceed the flashy products in the Microsoft product line.
ElectionGuard addresses a problem that has become a key issue in American democracy: voting integrity. The software is designed to establish end-to-end verification for voting machines.
Voters can check whether their votes are counted. If a hacker manages to change the ballot, this will be immediately apparent, as the encryption attached to the ballot will not change.
Open-source software has been available since last September. However, Microsoft conducted its first real test on Tuesday, when ElectionGuard was used in a local vote in Fulton, Wisconsin.
Local elections will provide Microsoft with an opportunity to spot blind spots in the ElectionGuard system. The question is how many it will find.
During its first demonstration of ElectionGuard on the Aspen Security Forum last July, Microsoft discovered some user experience flaws. One big problem: voters are confused as to why they should print two sheets of paper.
ElectionGuard resources available on GitHub are spread across four GitHub repositories or storage spaces, each of which is described below.
The ElectionGuard specification includes “informal” and “formal” roadmaps on how ElectionGuard works. The informal specification, written by Dr. Josh Benaloh of Microsoft Research, provides the conceptual and mathematical foundation for ElectionGuard’s end-to-end verifiable elections.
The formal specification contains detailed guidelines for manufacturers to include ElectionGuard in their systems, including a full description of the API (this is how the voting system communicates with ElectionGuard software) and the phase of end-to-end verifiable elections.
Refer to Verification Procedures and Specifications
As Microsoft announced in May, ElectionGuard enables government entities, news organizations, human rights organizations, or anyone else to build other verification procedures that independently prove that election results have been calculated correctly and have not been changed.
Resources available on GitHub today include validators and the specifications needed to build your standalone validators.
This repository contains the actual source code that vendors will use to build their ElectionGuard implementation.
It is written in C, which is a standard language commonly used by open-source software developers and includes a buildable version of the API. The document can also be viewed here. The code was built with Microsoft development partner Galois.
The reference Implementation of voting mark Device
Voting system manufacturers have the freedom to build ElectionGuard into their systems in several ways. At the Aspen Security Forum in July, Microsoft showed an example voting system built with the help of industrial designer Tucker Viemeister, and Microsoft believes in showing a great way in which the features supported by ElectionGuard can be used in the voting system.
The ballot marking device we demonstrated includes accessibility features built under the direction of the Citizen Design Center (the author of the original “Vote Anywhere”) and incorporates the Xbox Adaptive Controller as an optional device for ballots.
The open-source library of voting tagging devices released today includes the tools and visuals necessary to build or augment a reality election system using the best features of ElectionGuard.
These exhilarating steps enable individual voters to determine that their votes are being counted correctly and to ensure that these voters use the ElectionGuard system, the safest and most trusted ballot in American history.
As Microsoft previously announced, all major U.S. companies that are voting system manufacturers are working with us to explore ways to incorporate ElectionGuard into their systems, including transparent voting, democratic live broadcast, election systems and software, Dominion voting system, Hart InterCivic, BPro, MicroVote, Smartmatic and VotingWorks.
How it Works???
ElectionGuard works through a process called “Homomorphic Encryption“, which was first proposed in 1987 by Josh Benaloh, a senior cryptographer at Microsoft Research.
Your vote should have been private. Private voting makes intimidation or bribery useless because no one can confirm that you voted in some way.
Microsoft’s encryption technology also keeps voting secret by converting the selections into random lines of code until they are decrypted. However, votes should not be decrypted because they are designed to remain private. According to Benaloh, homomorphic encryption allows votes to be counted in a confidential manner.
Cryptologists say, “This is a kind of structural nonsense.” “Yes, this is nonsense. Yes, you cannot say what it is. But it retains enough structure that you can use it, not just abolish it. ”
Election officials count paper tickets, which is the usual and safest method. Calculated paper votes are the result of elections, not the results of digital submissions. After the voting is over, counting will take place offline.
Once this happens, the encrypted ballots are collected in the form of a.ZIP file and anyone can download the file and use it to verify the ballot. If there are any mismatches, voters can look at the encrypted vote to see if there has been any tampering.
“If you can’t stop hacking, the second thing is to know you’ve been hacked,” Carter said. “That’s exactly what it is.”