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Tusk Philanthropies Announces New Effort to Develop Open Source, End-to-End Verifiable Mobile Voting Solution

Tusk Philanthropies awarded a grant to Assembly Voting and the Open Source Election Technology (OSET) Institute to develop end-to-end verifiable mobile voting system for digital absentee voting
The enabling technology will provide a verifiable, accessible voting option for U.S. voters facing inherent barriers to traditional voting, including voters with disabilities and military and overseas voters

NEW YORK, Sept. 30, 2021 — Tusk Philanthropies today announced a new initiative and grant program to support the development of an open source, end-to-end verifiable mobile voting system for digital absentee voting. Tusk Philanthropies has awarded grant funding to Assembly Voting and the OSET Institute to develop the technology. The enabling technology will provide an accessible, verifiable voting option for U.S. voters facing inherent barriers to traditional voting, including voters with disabilities, military and overseas voters, voters in emergencies and voters on Tribal lands.

Tusk Philanthropies launched a campaign for Mobile Voting (MV) in late 2017 to bring mobile voting options to U.S. elections and increase voter turnout by making voting more convenient and accessible. Since 2018, the campaign has completed 20 mobile voting pilots across seven states – Colorado, Oregon, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia – for a mixture of voters including UOCAVA and voters with disabilities. Through these pilots, Tusk Philanthropies discovered the need for a coordinated effort to develop enabling technology for mobile voting using established federal guidelines and national security best practices.

“The 20 mobile voting pilots we’ve completed to date have shown that mobile voting is not only possible, but a preferred method of voting,” said Bradley Tusk, CEO and Founder of Tusk Philanthropies. “The pilots also highlighted a need for more transparent, open source voting options, which is why this next phase of our work is focused on bringing together the developer and security communities to fund responsible research and development in the elections space. Security is paramount to our efforts and we look forward to working with Assembly Voting and OSET to identify new ways to improve our elections and help the millions of voters who continue to face obstacles to the ballot box.”

Tusk Philanthropies issued a call for submissions last year to better understand the capabilities of current and future mobile voting systems and assess opportunities to support the development of a full stack mobile voting technology. After a thorough review process with a diverse team of experts, MV selected Assembly Voting and the nonprofit OSET Institute to receive grant funding. Assembly Voting will develop the end-to-end verifiable voting solution and OSET will develop the accessible ballot marking application.

The mobile voting solution will be designed as a digital version of paper absentee voting and will fully comply with all existing absentee voting requirements. Unlike existing mobile voting solutions, this new technology will be based on recommendations from the U.S. Vote Foundation‘s research on end-to-end verifiable voting systems. Much of the underlying technology will be open source to allow security experts and other technologists to scrutinize the source code to verify performance assertions and identify potential threats. The system will also offer end-to-end verification so that voters can verify their votes are cast as intended and the public can verify all ballots are tallied as recorded.

“We are pleased to contribute to this important project, and there are two primary reasons we are,” said Gregory Miller, COO of the nonprofit OSET Institute. “First is the opportunity to develop public technology to serve the important needs of voters with disabilities. The second driver of our engagement is peer-reviewed security-centric research and development. While we have a DNA-level commitment to the paper ballot of record, we recognize a growing demand for digital equivalents to traditional absentee ballot marking. The technical challenges to verifiable, accurate, and as-secure-as-possible remote voting are huge, but need to be solved. This project presents the type of research and development our nonprofit is funded to address.”

“We are excited to be part of a very ambitious and important mobile voting project,” said Jacob Gyldenkærne, CEO of Assembly Voting. “A viable democracy must be able to provide innovative new ways to participate without compromising the basic principles of democratic elections. We believe that proactively addressing the critical issues that currently pose a risk in mobile voting is the right way forward, including securing the return of ballots via the internet while ensuring ballot integrity and maintaining voter anonymity. Overcoming these issues will be difficult, but not impossible. Our decades of experience and mature end-to-end verifiable software make us uniquely positioned to contribute to this effort.”

“As America’s civil rights organization of the blind, the National Federation of the Blind demands voting systems that allow blind voters to privately and independently mark, verify, and cast or return our ballots,” said Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind. “We also know that Tusk Philanthropies is committed to solutions that incorporate accessibility at the outset rather than as an afterthought. We therefore believe that this project has great potential to produce a secure and accessible voting system that will benefit the blind and other voters who have traditionally experienced barriers to participation in the democratic process.”

In an effort to build in security at the beginning of the development process, Tusk Philanthropies worked with cybersecurity companies such as Synack, a crowdsourced security testing platform, to evaluate grant applicants. “We need to approach every technology involved in something as important as voting with a critical eye, and that’s the role security researchers can play in helping develop new and safe ways of expanding the democratic process,” said Jay Kaplan, CEO of Synack. “I don’t think we can write off any approach to voting that potentially increases access to the polls. We’re invested in making all voting platforms as secure as possible, whether it’s a traditional voting machine or digital absentee ballot.”

To ensure that the technology and its components meet appropriate cybersecurity standards, the grantees will adhere to recommendations from the Standards Working Group at the University of California at Berkeley’s Center for Security in Politics (CSP). The group is working to develop security, accessibility and election administration standards to successfully implement digital absentee voting in U.S. elections.

The project launched earlier this year and the grantees expect to have the system ready by mid-2022. Tusk Philanthropies is a not-for-profit and has no commercial interest in the technology being built. No Tusk Holdings entity will profit from any voting technology or mobile voting pilot.

About Tusk Philanthropies
Tusk Philanthropies was created by Bradley Tusk, Founder and CEO of Tusk Holdings, to dramatically increase voter turnout and participation in U.S. elections through mobile voting, beginning with UOCAVA voters and voters with disabilities. Mobile voting is a non-partisan initiative designed to not favor any one candidate or party but to expand voting options to increase participation in our electoral process. None of the Tusk entities have a financial interest in any voting technology company they have worked with.

About Assembly Voting
Assembly Voting was the first provider of digital elections in Denmark. Since 2001, the company has conducted more than 6,000 elections with over 35 million voters. Today, Assembly Voting provides the majority of digital election solutions in Scandinavia to professional associations, municipalities, energy and pension companies, etc. Assembly Voting is based on the idea of strengthening democratic participation, through the integration of democratic processes and new technological opportunities.

The company’s core focus is currently on creating systems where the entire voting process can be proved and documented from start to finish using advanced end-to-end encryption technologies and documentation processes

About the Open Source Election Technology (OSET) Institute
The OSET Institute is a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) election technology research, development and education organization founded in 2006. A team of veteran technologists leads the Institute with extensive hardware, software, and systems design experience from global brands including Apple, Mozilla, Netscape, Google and Sun Microsystems. The Institute’s mission is to increase confidence in elections and their outcomes. The Institute pursues that mission through its TrustTheVote® Project which is building ElectOS—publicly owned voting technology that’s more verifiable, accurate, secure, and transparent than anything to date. The Institute also develops and maintains the open-source 3rd party voter registration platform used by RockTheVote and others, and provides election administration technology to governments domestic and abroad.

Media Contact: Michaela Balderston,