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Certification of voting machines

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Subject: Software independence, Electronic voting, End-to-end auditable voting systems, Electronic voting examples, Independent verification systems
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Certification of voting machines

Election technology

Various governments require a certification of voting machines.

In the United States there is only a voluntary federal certification for voting machines and each state has ultimate jurisdiction over certification, though most states currently require national certification for the voting systems.[1]


In Germany the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt was responsible for certification of the voting machines for federal and European elections till 2009. Since the respective law, the Bundeswahlgeräteverordnung ("Federal Voting Machine Ordinance") is considered to be in contradiction to Germany's Constitution, this responsibility is suspended. The only machines certified so far are the Nedap ESD1 and ESD2.

United States

The US Election Assistance Commission has assumed federal responsibility for accrediting voting system test laboratories and certifying voting equipment through the Voting System Certification & Laboratory Accreditation Program.[1] The purpose of the program is to independently verify that voting systems comply with the functional capabilities, accessibility, and security requirements necessary to ensure the integrity and reliability of voting system operation, as established in the Voluntary Voting System Guidelines (VVSG). With this program the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will recommend labs for accreditation through its National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program (NVLAP).

The VVSG provide a set of specifications and requirements against which voting systems can be tested to determine if the systems provide all of the basic functionality, accessibility and security capabilities required of these systems. In addition, the guidelines establish evaluation criteria for the national certification of voting systems.

The EAC's Technical Guidelines Development Committee, with technical support from NIST are tasked with developing an initial set of recommendations for each VVSG iteration.[2] After the initial draft guidelines are authored, they are sent to the EAC for review and revision and then released for public comment. Comments are reviewed and considered by the EAC in consultation with NIST in development of the final release.

In 2007, California Secretary of State Debra Bowen decertified four electronic voting systems, three of which were conditionally recertified, after a "top-to-bottom review" of the voting machines certified for use in California in March 2007.[3][4]

VVSG 1.1

A new version of the VVSG was approved in 2015. [1].

  • Volume 1
  • Volume 2

2007 VVSG

A draft version of the 2007 VVSG was developed by the TGDC and NIST. It was not approved by the TGDC nor the EAC.

2005 VVSG

The 2005 VVSG, which significantly increased security requirements for voting systems and expanded access, including opportunities to vote privately and independently, for individuals with disabilities, was unanimously adopted by the EAC in December 2005;[5] It was version of the federal certification standards. During the 90-day public comment period, EAC received more than 6,000 comments on the proposed guidelines. These comments and the proposed guidelines are available via the Kennesaw State University. The 2005 VVSG will go into effect 24 months after their final adoption (December 2007).

  • VVSG Volume 1
  • VVSG Volume 2

Certification Origins and Roy Saltman

In February 1975 an interagency agreement was formed with General Accounting Office’s Office of Federal Elections (predecessor to the Federal Election Commission) and the National Bureau of Standards (predecessor to the National Institute of Standards and Technology) resulting in a March 1975 report, Effective Use of Computing Technology in Vote-Tallying,[6] authored by Roy Saltman. This report highlighted "the lack of appropriate technical skills at the State and local level for developing or implementing written standards, against which voting system hardware and software could be evaluated."

The U.S. Congress then directed the Federal Election Commission (FEC), in conjunction with the National Bureau of Standards to create engineering and procedural performance standards for voting systems. Another report, Voting System Standards: A Report on the Feasibility of Developing Voluntary Standards for Voting Equipment was produced in early 1984.[7] In July 1984 the FEC armed with congressionally appropriated funds began a six year task of creating the first national performance and test standards for punchcard, marksense, and direct recording electronic voting systems.

The resulting body of work was the first set of voluntary Voting System Standards issued in 1990.[8]


In addition to their involvement in the origins of national voting certification and testing, the FEC's Office of Election Administration and the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED) updated the initial Voting System Standards with the 2002 Voting System Standards/Guidelines.

The national testing effort was overseen by NASED’s Voting Systems Board, which is composed of election officials and independent technical advisors. NASED established a process for vendors to submit their equipment to an Independent Test Authority (ITA) for evaluation against the Standards. The NASED has compiled a list of Qualified Voting Systems 12-22-05

EAC Interim Voting System Certification Program

The Help America Vote Act mandated the federal certification process be assumed by the EAC. The EAC implemented an interim certification program in July 2006 which provided a means to obtain federal certification for modifications required by state and local election officials administering the 2006 General Election.[9]

In summer 2006 the EAC barred the company Ciber Inc. from approving further voting machines. Federal officials found that it was not following its quality-control procedures and could not document that it was conducting all the required tests.[10] According to the EAC "Ciber, Inc. has applied for interim accreditation, but EAC has not completed its review, so the Ciber application is pending." They have released relevant documentation regarding the Ciber, Inc. application from accreditation.

See also


External links

  • 2002 Voting Systems Standards
  • National Institutes of Standards and Technology and the Help America Vote Act (HAVA)
  • Voting System Certification & Laboratory Accreditation
  • National Association of State Election Directors
  • Federal Election Commission official website
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