Microsoft logoSource: Daniel Rubino/Windows Central

What you need to know

  • Fulton, Wisconsin tested Microsoft's ElectionGuard technology in a recent election.
  • The technology helps verify that votes have been tallied.
  • The technology could also be used to officially count votes, though it wasn't in this election.

The small town of Fulton, Wisconsin was the first to test Microsoft's ElectionGuard technology. ElectionGuard was used during an election to decide a new member of a local school board and a new seat on the Wisconsin state supreme court. ElectionGuard is free to use, and could potentially be used as part of elections in the U.S. and internationally.

ElectionGuard can count votes and provide confirmation to a voter that their vote is included in the official tally. While ElectionGuard can be used to officially count votes, it was not used in the Fulton Wisconsin election as it has not been certified with the state of Wisconsin. An Election Commission spokesperson told CNBC that Wisconsin Election officials will count paper votes for the election.

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When a system is used with ElectionGuard, votes are encrypted using a piece of technology from Microsoft Research. This prevents anyone from seeing how a specific individual voted. When a person votes using one of these systems, the system prints out a piece of paper that assures the voter that their vote was recorded properly. People then drop that paper into a ballot box. Voters can also check an online location to make sure their vote was counted, though the website won't state who they voted for.

Microsoft's ElectionGuard is free to use and could potentially be used by elections in the U.S. and internationally. Microsoft has seen interest from a developer in Europe, as well as other areas outside the United States. Tom Burt, Microsoft's corporate vice president for customer security and trust, said, "We may see this tech incorporated in nationwide or very large elections outside the United States even before it's incorporated inside the United States."