As we get closer to the national election, the integrity of the US election process continues to be front and center in the news. While many voters are opting for mail-in ballots, many still plan to vote in person. Ensuring the integrity of that process is critical and U-M is contributing to research that makes this possible, thanks in part to a collaboration with Microsoft.

 

Funding for Alex Halderman, Professor of Computer Science & Engineering, has provided University of Michigan students the opportunity to play an important role in technology designed to protect voter security.

 

Part of Microsoft’s Defending Democracy program, ElectionGuard software was developed as an end-to-end verification system for election results. ElectionGuard offers a free, open-source software kit (SDK) that enables end-to-end verification of elections, opens the results of the election to third-party verifiers, and allows voters to confirm their votes were recorded and counted correctly. Knowing public trust is an essential component of technology applications in the election process, Microsoft sought feedback from faculty and students at the University of Michigan to test the system thoroughly.

 

“We need ways to increase the rational level of trust in elections, and that’s where ElectionGuard has such wonderful potential,” says Halderman. Rice University and the University of Washington also tested the software.C ombined university testing led to pilot applications in real local elections in WI in February 2020, and has continued to build from there.

 

Microsoft was impressed with the results and wrote a white paper about the research. The tech company says they view election verification software as a corporate responsibility effort to protect democracy.

 

Kent Foster, Microsoft Director for University Relations works closely with Business Engagement Center staff on partnerships between U-M and Microsoft, helped bring this opportunity to U-M. Olga Kiely, Director of Corporate Relations at U-M, shares, “Kent is great at helping bring opportunities to U-M students. The exceptional caliber of our students make projects like this a great fit for our partnership. Helping with ElectionGuard is the latest example of that.”