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As Election Day Approaches, the EAC Seeks Input on Voting System Certification Program

New York, Oct 23, 2006

With the lead up to the November 7, 2006, general election in full swing, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) has released for public comment a draft procedural manual for its voting system testing and certification program, which aims to improve the accuracy and integrity of the nation’s voting systems. Formed under charter by the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA), the EAC is an independent bipartisan agency that serves as a national clearinghouse with respect to the administration of federal elections.

The program, which sets administrative procedures for obtaining EAC certification of electronic and electromechanical voting systems, is expected to roll out after the 2006 general election. Until recently, voting system certification was performed by the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED), a private membership organization that had coordinated certification since 1994. In July 2006, NASED concluded its certification efforts and the EAC instituted a transitional pre-election program to address any critical modifications required for the November 2006 election.

However, according to the EAC, there is currently no mechanism in place for the testing and certification of new systems for the 2008 federal elections. To assist the EAC in finalizing the administrative procedures of its certification program in a timely fashion, the EAC is seeking immediate public comment on the substantive aspects of the program as outlined in the draft manual. In addition, the EAC is also requesting comment on the program’s proposed collection of information; the program requires manufacturers to retain all technical and testing records and to provide information about their organization and the voting systems they submit for testing and certification.

EAC certification signifies that, through testing and evaluation performed by an accredited voting system test laboratory (VSTL), a voting system meets the requirements of a set of federally-backed standards known as the Voluntary Voting System Guidelines, or VVSG [See related article, Voluntary Voting Standards Reviewed during House Committee Joint Hearing]. The VVSG were developed by the Technical Guidelines Development Committee (TGDC), a fourteen-member group selected from various standards boards to support the EAC in modernizing voting system technology. The TGDC is chaired by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and includes appointed representatives from the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and ANSI-accredited standards developer the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).

Laboratories seeking EAC accreditation as a VSTL must first be accredited by NIST’s National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program (NVLAP). Under NVLAP, all laboratories are required to meet the international standard ISO/IEC 17025, General Requirements for the Competence of Testing and Calibration Laboratories.

“Ensuring that certified voting systems are available for the 2008 election cycle is essential to the public welfare,” the EAC stated in a recent federal register notice. “Given the fact that (1) it can take years to develop, test, certify, sell and field a new or modified voting system, and (2) a large volume of voting systems . . . are expected to be submitted to the EAC upon initiation of the new certification program, it is imperative that the EAC’s Voting System Testing and Certification Program begin on the earliest possible date.”

All comments must be received by October 31, 2006. Comments may be submitted on-line via EAC’s website (, or by fax to 202-566-1392 (attention: Brian Hancock, director of voting system certification, U.S. Election Assistance Commission).

For additional information and to access the federal register notice, click here.

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