Microsoft makes its ElectionGuard software for voting systems open source

Part of Microsoft’s Defending Democracy Program just became officially an open-sourced development kit (SDK) that, ideally, will enable more election campaigns to secure their communications in the future as well as put up additional safeguards around voting methods.

In May, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced that it would be rolling out ElectionGuard as free open-source solution, but earlier this week the project finally became publically available across the company’s GitHub repositories.

Here is what’s being gifted to developers:

  • ElectionGuard specification. The ElectionGuard specification includes both “informal” and “formal” road maps for how ElectionGuard works. The informal spec is authored by Dr. Josh Benaloh of Microsoft Research and provides the conceptual and mathematical basis for end-to-end verifiable elections with ElectionGuard. The formal spec contains detailed guidance manufacturers will need to incorporate ElectionGuard into their systems, including a full description of the API – which is the way voting systems communicate with the ElectionGuard software – and the stages of an end-to-end verifiable election.
  • Software code. This repository contains the actual source code vendors will use to build their ElectionGuard implementations. It is written in C, a standard language commonly used by open-source software developers and includes a buildable version of the API. This documentation is also viewable here. This code was built together with our development partner Galois.
  • Reference verifier and specification. As we announced in May, ElectionGuard enables government entities, news organizations, human rights organizations, or anyone else to build additional verifiers that independently can certify election results have been accurately counted and have not been altered. The resources available on GitHub today include a working verifier as well as the specifications necessary to build your own independent verifier.
  • Ballot marking device reference implementation. Voting system manufacturers will be free to build ElectionGuard into their systems in a variety of ways. At the Aspen Security Forum in July, we demonstrated a sample voting system, built with the help of industrial designer Tucker Viemeister, that we believe showcased a great way the features enabled by ElectionGuard can be used in voting systems. The ballot marking device we demonstrated included accessibility features built under the guidance of the Center for Civic Design, authors of the original “Anywhere Ballot,” and incorporated the Xbox Adaptive Controller as an optional device to mark ballots. The ballot marking device open-source repository released today includes a variety of tools and visuals necessary to build or augment real-world election systems using the best of ElectionGuard.

While Defending Democracy is a program that is being offered both nationally and internationally, it appears that ElectionGuard is being pitched to US-based developers and “manufacturers of voting systems in the United States.”

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