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

What Standards Are Used to Test Electronic Voting Machines?

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)

The 2005 Voluntary Voting Systems Guidelines included the following overview:

“The United States Congress passed the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) to modernize the administration of federal elections, marking the first time in our nation’s history that the federal government has funded an election reform effort… Section 202 directs the EAC [U.S. Election Assistance Commission] to adopt voluntary voting systems guidelines, and to provide for the testing, certification, decertification, and recertification of voting system hardware and software. The purpose of the guidelines is to provide a set of specifications and requirements against which voting systems can be tested to determine if they provide all the basic functionality, accessibility, and security capabilities required of voting systems.

This document, the Voluntary Voting System Guidelines (PDF) 4.06MB, is the third iteration of national level voting system standards that has been developed. The Federal Election Commission published the Performance and Test Standards for Punchcard, Marksense and Direct Recording Electronic Voting Systems (PDF) 449KB in 1990. This was followed by the Voting Systems Standards (PDF) 2.38MB in 2002… These latest Guidelines update and augment the 2002 Voting System Standards to address increasingly complex voting system technology.”

2005 - Voluntary Voting System Guidelines

The U.S. Election Assistance Commission released a media advisory on Dec. 13, 2005 which stated:

“The U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) unanimously adopted the 2005 Voluntary Voting System Guidelines, which significantly increase security requirements for voting systems and expand access, including opportunities to vote privately and independently, for individuals with disabilities. The guidelines will take effect in December 2007 (24 months), at which time voting systems will no longer be tested against the 2002 Voting System Standards (VSS) developed by the Federal Election Commission. However, states may decide to adopt these guidelines before the effective date…

Volume I, Voting System Performance Guidelines, includes new requirements for accessibility, usability, voting system software distribution, system setup validation and for wireless communications. It provides an overview of the requirements for Independent Verification systems, including requirements for a voter verified paper audit trail for states that require this feature for their voting systems. Volume I also includes the requirement that all voting system vendors submit software to the National Software Reference Library, which will allow local election officials to make sure the voting system software they purchase is the same software that was certified.

Volume II, National Certification Testing Guidelines, describes the components of the national certification testing process for voting systems, which will be performed by independent voting system test labs accredited by EAC. EAC is mandated by HAVA to develop a national program to accredit test laboratories and certify, decertify, and recertify voting systems.

These guidelines are voluntary. States may decide to adopt them entirely, in part or not at all. States may also choose to enact stricter performance requirements for voting systems. Currently, at least 39 states require voting systems to be certified at the national level. An initial set of guidelines were developed by the HAVA-designated Technical Guidelines Development Committee (TGDC), and then delivered to the EAC for consideration. EAC made initial changes and posted the proposed guidelines for a 90-day comment period, which resulted in more than 5,600 comments. During this public comment period, EAC held public meetings in New York City, Pasadena, and Denver to solicit additional input from representatives of the disability community, advocacy groups, the general public and technology and voting system experts.”

Dec. 13, 2005

Congressional Research Service’s 2003 Report for Congress titled “Election Reform and Electronic Voting Systems (DREs): Analysis of Security Issues,” stated:

“Concerns [about the security of electronic voting machines]…have been voiced by some experts at least since the 1980s. The development of the Voluntary Voting System Standards (VSS) by the Federal Election Commission in 1990, and the subsequent adoption of those standards by many states, helped to reduce those concerns. The VSS were developed specifically for computer-assisted punchcard, optical scan, and DRE voting systems. They include a chapter on security, which was substantially expanded in the updated version, released in 2002…

HAVA creates a new mechanism for the development of voluntary voting system standards. It creates the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to replace the FEC’s Office of Election Administration and establishes three bodies under the EAC: a 110-member Standards Board consisting of state and local election officials, a 37-member Board of Advisors representing relevant government agencies and associations and fields of science and technology, and a 15-member Technical Guidelines Development Committee chaired by the Director of National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). This last committee is charged with making recommendations for voluntary standards (called guidelines in the Act), to be reviewed by the two boards and the EAC.”


A Center for Correct, Usable, Reliable, Auditable and Transparent Elections (ACCURATE) submitted their “Public Comment on the 2005 Voluntary Voting System Guidelines” to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission on Sep. 30, 2005, which stated:

“Voting systems must ensure security, privacy, transparency, usability, accessibility and equality. Through the 2005 Voluntary Voting System Guidelines (the Guidelines) the Election Assistance Commission is responsible for translating these diverse values into specifications and requirements that reliably instill these values in voting systems. As past elections and past standards amply illustrate, the distillation of these broad core democratic values into workable voting system requirements that can be effectively evaluated is a complicated, continuous process.”

Sep. 30, 2005