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ANSI Appointed to Election Assistance Commission's Technical Guidelines Development Committee

New York, Jul 28, 2004

The fervor of an election year is building steadily, with the Democratic National Convention in full swing in Boston and the Republican National Convention preparing to descend on New York City. While Americans are deciding on whom they plan to vote for, guidance from a government-sponsored commission will help to shape future standards governing how these votes will be cast. As part of this group, the American National Standards Institute will have a role to play as standards and technology are scrutinized in the context of the future of voting.

The United States Election Assistance Commission (EAC) is an independent bipartisan agency authorized to serve as a national clearinghouse and resource of information on various matters involving the administration of federal elections. The group was created by the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA), which allocated nearly $4 billion to states over three years to allow them to purchase new voting machines, train poll workers and provide computerized lists of registered voters. After the controversial 2000 presidential election in Florida, the Act was intended to overhaul the voting system and provide greater protection against both inadvertent mistakes and voter fraud.

As part of the EAC, which is chaired by Dr. DeForest B. Soaries, Jr., a fifteen-member Technical Guidelines Development Committee (TGDC) was formed to make recommendations to the EAC on voluntary standards and guidelines related to voting machines. The committee is chaired by Dr. Arden Bement, director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and includes the appointment of a representative from ANSI, and from ANSI member and accredited standards developer the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). The HAVA legislation gives NIST a key role in supporting nationwide improvements in voting systems, including planning a voting systems testing laboratory accreditation program, improving testing programs and conformity assessment for voting systems, and fostering the development of voluntary, consensus guidelines with participation from all interested parties.

According to the EAC website: “Voting system standards ensure the public that the election equipment available for purchase by their state has been tested to be accurate, reliable, and dependable. New standards were approved by the Federal Election Commission on April 30, 2002, and are being voluntarily adopted by states.” (Detailed information regarding voting systems standards is available at in the Help America Vote Act of 2002, Section 301.)

However, government leaders, political activists and the national media have made impassioned calls for voting reform, warning against problems inherent in some electronic voting systems. Many states and municipalities are wary in the face of extensive documentation of the problems with electronic voting. Public calls have been made for adequate standards and independent testing for voting machines, transparency of processes, penalties for violations, paper documentation of votes, and backup, non-electronic systems.

As coordinator of the voluntary standardization system in the United States, ANSI is uniquely positioned to bring together a diverse range of stakeholders and provide a forum for cross-sector collaboration on urgent national priorities, such as voting reform and homeland security.

“ANSI welcomes the opportunity to contribute our resources to facilitate the work of the TGDC in the areas of standardization and conformity assessment, and help to implement the Help America Vote Act,” said Anne Caldas, ANSI director of procedures and standards administration and the Institute’s representative on the TGDC.

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