Hart InterCivic and Microsoft partner for election security

Alex Smith
By Alex Smith on 04 June 2021
Hart InterCivic and Microsoft partner for election security
Element5 Digital/Unsplash

Hart InterCivic and Microsoft have formed a partnership to incorporate ElectionGuard software developed by Microsoft in Hart’s Verity voting systems. 

The partnership makes Hart the first major voting machine manufacturer in the USA to provide end-to-end verifiability to voters, allowing individuals to confirm that their ballots were counted and not altered. This capability also allows independent election security experts to build verifier programmes that can confirm the accuracy of the overall vote count. 

“We believe we must constantly reimagine 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 will begin by testing ElectionGuard in its Verity voting system, currently used by over 500 jurisdictions across 17 states in the USA. Voters in jurisdictions participating in the pilot will fill out a paper ballot by hand or use the Verity Duo ballot marking device and then place their ballot into a Verity scanner. Upon completion of the scan, the voter will be provided with a verification code. Once the election is complete, voters can check their verification code on a web portal to confirm their ballot was counted in the final election results. 

This process is done without revealing the content of the voter’s ballot, maintaining the privacy and secrecy of their selections. The election’s final tally can also be confirmed by interested third parties, who can run the results through a verifier and compare the output to the official election results.

ElectionGuard is an open-source software created by Microsoft as part of the company’s Defending Democracy Program. ElectionGuard uses technology called homomorphic encryption to keep people’s votes secret and secure while still enabling votes to be counted. Microsoft has conducted public demonstrations of the software and opened it to the security community for inspection and testing.

“The team at Hart has done exceptional work to combine the benefits of a paper ballot-based voting system with the best the ElectionGuard technology has to offer,” said Tom Burt, corporate vice president of Customer Security and Trust at Microsoft. “We’re excited that voters will be able to experience the confidence ElectionGuard can bring to the process while voting on machines from a company that has been supporting elections for more than a century.”

As the pilot project progresses, Hart and Microsoft will be collecting feedback from election officials, security experts and voters. The companies will announce pilot details for an ElectionGuard-enabled Verity system at a later date.
 

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