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Microsoft Trials Election Security Solution in Wisconsin

Microsoft representatives are in Fulton, Wisconsin, on Tuesday to conduct the first real-world trials for ElectionGuard, the company’s open source election security solution.

Microsoft representatives are in Fulton, Wisconsin, on Tuesday to conduct the first real-world trials for ElectionGuard, the company’s open source election security solution.

Introduced in May 2019, the free software development kit (SDK) was created in collaboration with Galois, aiming to provide end-to-end verification of elections. Moreover, the tool opens election results to third-party organizations for secure validation.

Made available last year to election officials and technology suppliers to incorporate into voting systems, ElectionGuard was also included in Microsoft’s bug bounty program in October 2019, with the company willing to pay up to $15,000 for security bugs.

Now, Microsoft is taking deployment of its election protection offerings one step further with the trialing of ElectionGuard in Fulton, where voters on Tuesday cast ballots in a primary election for Wisconsin Supreme Court candidates.

The SDK was also designed to provide an encrypted digital tally for individual voters to confirm that their votes were correctly counted. Microsoft is now making this capability available for voters in Fulton, to test it before broader deployment across the country.

“Tomorrow’s pilot gives us the first chance to see ElectionGuard in action in a real election, to assess its performance and observe voter reaction. We hope to learn from this so we can continue to work with election officials in Wisconsin and other states – and with technology partners such as VotingWorks – to improve ElectionGuard,” Microsoft said on Monday.

The tech giant also revealed that, over the past months, it worked closely with the Wisconsin Election Commission and with VotingWorks to test the system and voting machines for pilot use and to train polling place workers.

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Voters will be selecting candidates on a touchscreen, then they will be printing a paper ballot, while also receiving a separate tracking code, and finally they will deposit their ballot into a ballot box for counting.

The process will also allow the tech company to tally the vote electronically and compare the results with the official count. Voters will also be able to individually confirm that their vote was counted.

“ElectionGuard was built with the flexibility to be used in systems where paper ballots provide the primary vote count or where paper ballots are used as a backup. Additionally, ElectionGuard has been built to help ensure voting is accessible for people with disabilities and to give everyone a modern, fast and efficient voting experience,” Microsoft says.

Related: Microsoft Launches ElectionGuard Bug Bounty Program

Related: Microsoft to Provide Free Security Updates for Voting Systems Running Windows 7

Related: Microsoft Launches New Solutions to Protect Elections From Hacking

Written By

Ionut Arghire is an international correspondent for SecurityWeek.

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