Washington, DC – A set of 17 core voting system functions that will guide the Election Assistance Commission’s (EAC) next generation of Voluntary Voting System Guidelines (VVSG) was adopted this week by the EAC’s Technical Guidelines Development Committee (TGDC). The unanimous vote came during a meeting called by the EAC and chaired by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). It comes as the Department of Homeland Security has affirmed its intent to maintain designation of election systems as part of the nation’s critical infrastructure.
“The need to protect America’s voting systems has never been more apparent,” said EAC Commissioner Matthew Masterson, who is the designated federal officer for the committee. “We are pleased the TGDC was unanimous in its vote to approve the proposed scope for the next set of guidelines, putting us another step closer to finalizing the next generation of standards used to test voting systems. These will be the most advanced standards against which a voting system can be tested in the United States, ensuring improved security, accessibility and auditability of the next generation of voting systems. Even better, these new guidelines are designed to spur innovations that allow local election officials to give voters the best experience possible.”
What are VVSG?
VVSG are a set of specifications and requirements against which voting systems can be tested to determine if the systems meet required standards. Some factors examined under these tests include functionality, accessibility, accuracy, auditability and security capabilities. The Help America Vote Act of 2002 mandates that EAC develop and maintain these requirements as well as testing and certifying voting systems. On December 13, 2005, the EAC unanimously adopted the 2005 VVSG, which significantly increased security requirements for voting systems and expanded access, including opportunities for individuals with disabilities to vote privately and independently. The 2005 guidelines updated and augmented the 2002 Voting System Standards, as required by HAVA, to address advancements in election practices and computer technologies. These guidelines were again updated by the EAC’s Commissioners on March 31, 2015.
About the new VVSG
The new VVSG are slated to be complete by 2018. These guidelines are voluntary. States may decide to adopt them entirely or in part prior to the effective date. The structure of the new VVSG reflects modifications proposed by the election community, EAC, NIST and the TGDC, which is comprised of election officials, voting system manufacturers, disability experts, cyber security experts, technology experts, and other key election stakeholders. The new guidelines are a nimble high level set of principles that will be supplemented by accompanying documents that detail specific requirements for how systems can meet the new guidelines and obtain certification. The supplemental documents will also detail assertions for how the accredited test laboratories will validate that the system complies with those requirements. The new VVSG structure is anticipated to be:
- Principles: High level system design goals;
- Guidelines: Broad description of the functions that make up a voting system;
- Requirements: Technical details necessary for manufacturers to design devices that meet the principles and guidelines of a voting system;
- Test Assertions: Technical specifications required for laboratories to test a voting system against the requirements.
During this week’s meeting, the TGDC also had the opportunity to hear from the Department of Homeland Security about how the department’s new critical infrastructure designation may impact local election officials. The discussion marked the first time DHS and local election officials and other stakeholders had the opportunity to talk about the designation and revealed next steps in the process, including the creation of working groups that DHS plans to convene to inform its recommendations and services. Last year marked the 10th anniversary of the EAC’s Testing and Certification program, which is the most successful and most implemented voting machine testing and certification program in the nation.
The Testing and Certification program was a requirement of the Help America Vote Act of 2002, legislation that created the EAC and mandated that the commission provide certification, decertification, and recertification of voting systems, as well as the accreditation of voting system testing laboratories. This marked the first time the federal government assumed responsibility for these activities, a step that allowed states to procure new certified voting systems without the added expense of independent testing and certification. At least 47 states now use the EAC’s Testing and Certification program in some way when deciding which voting system to procure, and over the past decade, it has handled 58 certification campaigns in coordination with 15 voting system vendors. The TGDC is expected to convene again in late summer 2017.
About the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC)
The U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) was established by the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA). It is an independent, bipartisan commission charged with ensuring secure, accurate and accessible elections by developing guidance to meet HAVA requirements, adopting voluntary voting system guidelines, and serving as a national clearinghouse of information on election administration. EAC also accredits testing laboratories and certifies voting systems, as well as audits the use of HAVA funds. For more information, visit www.eac.gov.