Free Speech For People and the National Election Defense Coalition (NEDC) submitted a public comment to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission regarding the Commission’s proposed new voting system guidelines. These guidelines were last updated in 2005. Unfortunately, the Commission’s past practice has been that, after guidelines have been updated, voting machine vendors can still test and certify their machines against the older, out-of-date guidelines. Our comment asks the Commission to ensure that, once the new guidelines are finalized, the older guidelines are retired for good.

The problem

As NEDC explained in an earlier round of comments to the Election Assistance Commission:

Since their establishment in the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002, the Voluntary Voting System Guidelines (VVSG) have played a crucial role in shaping the voting equipment used in the U.S. by addressing aspects of functionality, accessibility, accuracy, auditability and security. Though voluntary, the VVSG influence the voting system market and impact State certification, even in States that do not formally require certification of voting equipment by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC).

The original VVSG (1.0) was released in 2005; VVSG 1.1 followed in 2015. While the proposed “VVSG 2.0” guidelines need some improvements, overall VVSG 2.0 reflects a careful, thoughtful, sensible and thorough set of guidelines for voting systems.

However, the Commission has not made clear whether vendors will be allowed to continue testing and certifying against older, obsolete VVSG versions. Right now, for example, the Commission’s 2015 Testing and Certification Program Manual allows the manufacturer of a voting system to choose the VVSG against which the manufacturer wishes to have the system tested and certified. The world of technology has changed significantly since 2005, when VVSG 1.0 was established: the iPhone had not yet been released, and Facebook was still “The Facebook” and only available to college students.

Our comment

We are concerned that allowing earlier VVSGs to remain available will allow manufacturers to obtain certifications in conformity with 2005 standards, which do not reflect modern expectations of a voting machine (or indeed any computer) with respect to usability, reliability, and security.

This concern is evidenced by the fact that even after VVSG 1.1 was promulgated in 2015, voting systems manufacturers have continued to request their systems be tested and certified against VVSG 1.0, such as the EVS from ES&S, certified on July 2, 2018.

Our comment urges the Commission not to allow manufacturers to continue to test and certify against older versions of the VVSG once version 2.0 has been finalized.

Read our comment to the Election Assistance Commission.