Last updated on: 4/23/2008 | Author:

Is Qualification Testing Conducted by Independent and Accredited Entities?

PRO (yes)


The Maryland State Board of Elections issued a report intended as an informational resource to the residents of the state titled Voting Systems, available on the State Board of Elections website (accessed June 14, 2006), which explained:

“Under the current testing structure, the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED) approves independent testing authorities (ITAs) to test voting systems against the performance and test standards previously established by the Federal Election Commission and recently updated by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. Upon completion of testing, the ITA provides NASED’s ITA Voting Systems Committee with a written report of the voting system’s performance against the standards. After reviewing the report, the ITA Voting Systems Committee determines whether to issue a qualification number.”

June 14, 2006 - Maryland State Board of Elections


The U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC), in a document on their website titled “Testing and Certification Process for Voting Systems” (accessed June 12, 2006), stated:

“Currently, the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED) oversees the qualification process for voting systems, working with independent testing authorities (ITA) accredited by NASED… Voting systems are tested by ITAs against the 2002 Voting System Standards [VSS]. ITAs are non-federal labs. These labs apply to the NASED Voting Systems Board to become accredited. A National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program (NVLAP) accredited lab assessor reviews the workmanship and performance of these labs. After the ITA determines through testing that a voting system meets the 2002 VSS, the Technical Subcommittee of the NASED Voting System Board reviews the test report to validate the ITA’s findings.”

June 12, 2006 - US Election Assistance Commission (EAC)


Hratch Semerjian, PhD, Deputy Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, stated in his June 24, 2004 testimony before the Environment, Technology, and Standards Subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science:

“Under HAVA, NIST is directed to offer formal accreditation to laboratories that test voting system hardware and software for conformance to the current Voting System Standards. This week, NIST is announcing in the Federal Register the establishment of a Laboratory Accreditation Program for Voting Systems. NIST will carry out the accreditation of these laboratories through the National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program (NVLAP), which is administered by NIST. NVLAP is a long-established laboratory accreditation program that is recognized both nationally and internationally. NVLAP accreditation criteria are codified in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR, Title 15, Part 285).

Laboratory accreditation thus provides a means of evaluating the competence of laboratories to perform specific types of testing, measurement, and calibration. It also allows a laboratory to determine whether it is performing its work correctly and to appropriate standards. Laboratories seeking accreditation to test voting system hardware and software will be required to meet the NVLAP criteria for accreditation which include: ISO/IEC 17025 [international standard of laboratory competence], the 2002 Voting System Standards, and any other criteria deemed necessary by the Election Assistance Commission (EAC)… Only after a laboratory has met all NVLAP criteria for accreditation will it be presented to the Election Assistance Commission for its approval to test voting systems. The EAC may impose requirements on the laboratories in addition to NVLAP accreditation.”

June 24, 2004 - Hratch Semerjian, PhD


SysTest Labs, an independent testing authority, offered the following testimony before the Environment, Technology, and Standards Subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science on June 24, 2004:

“In order to become a software and hardware ITA, SysTest Labs had to apply to NASED and then be audited by the NASED Technical Committee… The NASED audit process requires that we provide documentation and demonstrate our quality program. In addition, we have had to provide documentation and demonstrate our test methodology and processes for NASED Qualification Testing of voting systems. While the requirements we test to are governed by the standards, we must define the method of testing and processes to ensure the consistency, adequacy, accuracy, and overall quality of our NASED Qualification Testing.”

June 24, 2004 - SysTest Labs

CON (no)


The National Academy of Sciences’ 2005 report “Asking the Right Questions About Electronic Voting,” stated:

“The Independent Testing Authorities (ITAs) are private entities, designated by the National Association of State Election Directors and its successor, the Election Assistance Commission, to serve that role. Vendors contract with any ITA with whom they can negotiate an acceptable contract. Although there are no credible allegations of misconduct to the committee’s knowledge, the possibility that a vendor might receive a ‘sweetheart’ evaluation from an ITA is an obvious one to consider under these circumstances.”

2005 - National Academy of Sciences (NAS)


Ellen Theisen, CEO of the Vote-PAD Company, explained in her 2005 report “Myth Breakers: Facts About Electronic Elections”:

“In the qualification process, an Independent Testing Authority (ITA), approved by NASED, tests voting equipment against the voluntary Federal Voting System Standards approved by the Federal Election Commission and more recently the Election Assistance Commission established by HAVA.

The testing and qualification process is conducted under a confidential contract between the ITA and the vendor applying for qualification. The process is kept secret from election officials, the media, and the general public. Vendors contact the ITAs to enter the testing process; all contracts and contacts about the process are directly between the vendor and the ITA.”

2005 - Ellen Theisen, MA


Lynn Landes, an independent journalist, included a “History of Voting, Plus Questions and Answers” section on her website (accessed June 13, 2006), which explained:

“The FEC [Federal Election Commission] coordinates with the industry-funded National Association of State Election Directors (NASED), a private non-profit group, to have machines inspected [and] certified by industry-funded private contractors. NASED selects and approves the testing laboratories… The inspection is conducted by three private companies who are not themselves subject to any regulation.”

June 13, 2006 - Lynn Landes


Verified Voting Foundation included an “Electronic Voting Machine Information Sheet and Glossary” on their website (accessed June 13, 2006), which stated:

“An Independent Testing Authority (ITA) is a laboratory that tests a vendor’s voting system to make sure it follows either the Federal Election Commission’s 1990 or 2002 standards. Current ITAs include Wyle Laboratories (hardware only), SysTest Labs, LLC (hardware and software), and CIBER, Inc. (software only). ITA testing is paid for by the vendors and access to the results of ITA testing is often limited to the vendor whose product is being tested.”

June 13, 2006 - Verified Voting Foundation


Kim Zetter, Senior Reporter for Wired News, reported in her July 7, 2005 article “An Introduction to E-Voting”:

“The ‘independent testing labs,’ or ITAs, that test voting systems are not completely independent of the companies that make voting equipment. The ITAs are private, for-profit labs that receive money from voting vendors to test their systems, giving the vendors control over such parts of the testing process as who gets to view the test results. This lack of transparency means that state officials who buy voting machines seldom know about problems that occurred with machines during testing. Until now there has been no oversight of the testing labs and no clearinghouse for tracking problems with voting systems.”

July 7, 2005 - Kim Zetter