Microsoft is reportedly set to offer free software tools to ensure the safety and transparency of elections.
"The Microsoft announcement could be a big deal. Microsoft brings a tremendous wealth of expertise and knowledge on both security and building scalable technology platforms. End-to-end verifiability of election results is the gold standard for voting, but it has been an elusive goal", said Daniel Castro, the vice president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) and Washington, DC-based director of the Centre for Data Innovation.
He highlighted that "major companies have mostly avoided working in the voting space because of the expensive certification requirements and difficulty of providing technology to the public sector". In contrast, "Microsoft has the resources to overcome these barriers", the IT expert believes.
ElectionGuard, the much-anticipated free open-source software development kit (SDK), was developed by Microsoft with the assistance of Oregon-based company Galois.
The company outlined that ElectionGuard will provide each voter "a tracker with a unique code" that is used "to follow an encrypted version of the vote through the entire election process via a web portal". Second, the tool also includes an open specification that allows users to run election verifiers of their own.
As a result, any voter will be able to verify that the recorded votes are correctly counted, thus making the process more transparent. However, Microsoft pointed out that "as with current election systems, voters will remain unable to disclose their recorded votes to protect their privacy".
Earlier, in November 2018, Fox News sounded alarm over the DEF CON hacker conference in Las Vegas, which revealed that a typical voting machine used in 18 states could be compromised in just two minutes. Once an intruder gains access to the admin mode, he could install a different operating system and tip the balance in favour of one of the candidates.
The US 2016 presidential race prompted a lot of controversy both due to the "Russia meddling" story — something that Moscow strongly denies as being absurd on its face — and illegal voting.
In January 2017, Tom Fitton, the president of conservative watchdog Judicial Watch, raised the issue of potential voting rights abuse in an op-ed for The Daily Caller, estimating that millions of illegal aliens could have cast their ballots in 2016. In a separate study, Fitton presumed that "at least 900,000 aliens illegal voted in [the 2018] midterms".
MASSIVE VOTER FRAUD? I estimate at least 900,000 aliens illegal voted in midterms. New numbers out of Texas and Pennsylvania suggest foreign nationals illegally voting in massive numbers! pic.twitter.com/Y0kDPHOn0Z— Tom Fitton (@TomFitton) 18 марта 2019 г.
"Many states do not have a voter ID requirement. Worse yet, many states do not even have a requirement to certify citizenship, other than saying out loud that you are a citizen. All too many of the systems that are in place to prevent unlawful voting are either nonexistent or are so weak that they are useless", the Judicial Watch president emphasised in his op-ed.
Apart from this, the conservative watchdog filed a 2017 federal lawsuit to force the clean-up of voter rolls. In 2019 the lawsuit confirmed that only in Los Angeles County there were more than 1.5 million potentially ineligible voters, which either had moved or deceased.
"We believe technology companies have a responsibility to help protect our democratic processes and institutions", a Microsoft press release said. "Modern technology can be used to ensure the voting process is resilient".
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