Today, The Council of State Governments announces a partnership with its longtime collaborator in the election space, The Turnout, to form the Election Technology Initiative (ETI). The ETI will support and develop open-source technologies for election administrators to improve the security and transparency of U.S. and international elections as well as increase voter confidence, accessibility, and participation.
“State election officials are among the heroes of our democracy. They consistently carry out free and fair elections with professionalism and integrity. With the leadership of Microsoft, election officials now have new tools to assure citizens that their vote counts,” said David Adkins, executive director/CEO of The Council of State Governments. “CSG is proud to launch the Election Technology Initiative in partnership with The Turnout to enhance voter confidence in elections.”
The initiative will begin with the transition of ElectionGuard, the open-source software program developed by Microsoft’s Democracy Forward Initiative, to the ETI. ElectionGuard provides voting system vendors and election administrators the capability to perform end-to-end verifiable elections and post-election audits. ETI will provide the governance structure of the ElectionGuard codebase and oversee its implementation of end-to-end verifiability. RC Carter will join The Turnout and continue to lead the project. Dr. Josh Benaloh, one of the core and earliest contributors of the cryptographic foundations ElectionGuard is based upon, will continue to serve as principal technical advisor to the project and oversee the ElectionGuard specification, and Microsoft Research will continue to contribute important implementations of the specification and codebase.
“The Turnout is excited to partner with CSG on the Election Technology Initiative to bring additional layers of accountability, accessibility, and transparency to elections; building on the foundation that Microsoft set for us,” said Jared Marcotte, president of The Turnout. “We’re also happy to announce that RC Carter will be joining our team of election technology experts. It’s a rare gift to have someone who’s been with a project since its inception, has a clear and specific vision for its growth and development, can liaise and manage the various development teams, and can effortlessly explain a highly technical project to any audience. That’s RC.”
ElectionGuard was announced at Microsoft BUILD in 2018. Its first public election occurred in Fulton, Wisconsin, in February 2020 with VotingWorks. After a partnership with Hart InterCivic announced in July 2021, ElectionGuard was used in the November 2022 General Election in Franklin County, Idaho, in conjunction with Hart, Enhanced Voting, MITRE, and the Center for Civic Design.
“At Microsoft, we are working with our partners to create technology solutions that can safeguard the electoral process around the world. Four years ago, we launched ElectionGuard as a new open-source contribution to the development of secure, transparent, and accessible voting systems,” said Ginny Badanes, senior director of Microsoft’s Democracy Forward program. “Today, we are transitioning ElectionGuard to the Election Technology Initiative so they can continue this important work. With Microsoft’s ongoing support, CSG and The Turnout are the right team of trusted experts to advance ElectionGuard’s mission of empowering voters to verify that their vote counted.”
What is End-to-end Verifiability?
End-to-end verifiability (e2e-v) uses advanced cryptography and security software to create a public encrypted copy of the tally and of each ballot used in an election. Voters can verify that their ballots were included in the final tally and independent verifiers can be built to confirm the tallies derived by the ballots are correctly counted.
E2e-v is the only mechanism other than paper ballots that allow for software independence, a key requirement of systems certified under the Election Assistance Commission’s Voluntary Voting System Guidelines 2.0 standards. It’s also the only technology that can achieve software independence across both paper-and non-paper-based systems, which makes it a critical enabler of additional voting methods and improving accessibility generally. ElectionGuard is currently the only comprehensive end-to-end verifiability system under development in the U.S.
About The Council of State Governments
CSG is America’s largest organization of state officials and the nation’s only nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization serving all three branches of state government. Founded in 1933, CSG is a region-based forum that fosters the exchange of insights and ideas to help state officials shape public policy to help communities across the nation and advance the common good.
About The Turnout
At the intersection of technology and election infrastructure, The Turnout works to help governments better understand and assess military and overseas voting, to perform security self-assessments and upgrade their cybersecurity, to visualize and analyze their processes, and to standardize and validate their elections data.