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What is Microsoft Election Guard and How Will it Impact our Elections?

microsoft election guard

For as long as there have been elections there have been rumors of election tampering. This became a story during the last Presidential Election, but in reality there have been claims of voting issues for decades. The 2000 Presidential Election and its “hanging chad” issue, for one. In order to help improve both the ease of voting and the security, districts have started to turn to technology to help. These technological uses have come with mixed results. Even the recent Iowa Caucus, which utilized new technology, ran into some rather major problems. Tech giant Microsoft is looking to lend its hand to the upcoming elections with what is called Microsoft Election Guard. But what exactly is it and how will it impact our elections, both in 2020 and in years to come? We have the answer for you.

What Is Microsoft Election Guard?

Last year, Microsoft announced Election Guard, which is an open-source voting machine software. When using the software voters will select who they wish to cast a vote for by pressing on a touchscreen. Once complete the software will print out two documents showing who the individual voted for. That person can then look over everything to make sure it’s correct and submit the printed document to the election workers.

The second printed piece is something the individual will hold onto. On this piece of paper it will include a QR code. This QR code makes it possible for the voter to scan it with their smartphone and check to make sure their vote was counted. When the first piece of paper is officially counted the information will be automatically updated, which allows the individual to see this with their QR code scan.

The Purpose of Microsoft Election Guard

In reality, it isn’t possible to create a hacker proof computer system. There will always be people who are looking to hack into voter systems. So while Microsoft is trying to produce something that’s hacker resilient, it is also trying to create a system that will indicate hacks quickly. It doesn’t do much good if hacks are not identified for weeks, if not months down the road. By that time it is too late. Instead, the hacks need to be identified in near real time. That is what the Microsoft Election Guard is designed to do.

The system provides end-to-end verification. With previous voting machines, users had to assume their votes were counted and that they were counted correctly. The same is true with the punch cards. One had to assume their cards were punched correctly and that their cards were correctly read. With Microsoft Election Guard it should, in theory, be easier to know for sure whether or not the information is counted correctly.

When each vote is created and the QR codes are printed out the individual votes receive unique encryption (this also means, in theory, someone would need to hack in and get past the encryption of every single vote they wanted to change). When the vote is counted the encryption changes, which is what is updated on the QR code. However, if someone hacks into the system and changes the vote the encryption attached would not change. Due to this, it would become immediately apparent that the vote had been tampered with.

Upcoming Election Use

This software was not in use for the Iowa Caucus. The Iowa Caucus ran into some rather large software application problems. The Iowa Caucus has always been the launching point for primary elections. However, it completely fell apart this time around. The technology they used failed miserably, and weeks after the initial vote the results were still not fully realized. The Democratic National Committee used a counting application to help pull in and tally votes. But it hit just about every bump in the road. While a caucus is a bit more problematic than an actual election, which is relatively straightforward in terms of voting, it is critical for these kinds of issues to be ironed out before the national election near the end of 2020.

The Microsoft service will be officially unveiled and tested during the Wisconsin primary elections. Microsoft wanted to target a medium-sized state that had both larger cities (such as Milwaukee) and a number of smaller cities. During the initial test of the software the biggest issue found was some voters were confused about why there were two pieces of paper being printed out.

Due to this, possibly the most important task up to Microsoft is to get out and let people know about the process and to educate them on the two paper system. It is also up to those at the polls to let people know. There is always a learning curve when moving to a different voter system. Microsoft just wants to limit this and to make sure everyone knows what to expect when they vote this November.

Continued Use of Technology

The use of manually punching votes into a card or filling in circles with a pen are not long for this world. As everything continues to move forward digitally we will see more and more uses of tech. Of course, it also means local networks need to have the very best in security systems in place. Hackers will likely attempt to break into these networks and influence the final vote tallies.

However, voting systems are not alone as possible hacker targets. Your company’s own network may be one as well. That is why you need to do what you can to protect your own company’s network. The best way to do that is to bring in the team from Charlotte IT Solutions. With a personalized security system configured specifically to your business, it will better protect your business and keep it safe from outside threats. So if you’re ready to take the next step in protecting your company’s network now is the time to reach out and contact Charlotte IT Solutions

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