E-voting Certification Procedures in the United States

In 2005 the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) established Voluntary Voting System Guidelines (VVSG) to accredit the functional capabilities, accessibility and security requirements of electronic voting and counting systems. These requirements have to be met for systems to gain EAC certification, and the EAC has accredited several testing labs to conduct the certification process. Individual states, however, may decide whether or not to use VVSG for the electronic voting and counting systems employed in their elections. 

Electronic voting systems, both direct-recording electronic and optical-scan ballot counting, are used extensively throughout the U.S. Under the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002, the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) was established and empowered with adopting voluntary voting system guidelines, accrediting voting system test laboratories and certifying electronic voting and counting systems. In 2005 the EAC adopted the Voluntary Voting System Guidelines (VVSG), thereby establishing standards relating to the functional capabilities, accessibility and security requirements of electronic voting and counting systems. These are the standards that the EAC’s certification process applies to systems. The VVSG contains approximately 1,200 requirements that systems are required to comply with in order to obtain certification by the EAC.

The EAC does not test electronic voting and counting systems itself, but provides accreditation to a number of testing labs which conduct the certification process. Suppliers of electronic voting and counting systems must apply to one of the approved testing laboratories in order to obtain accreditation for their system. Certification requirements under the VVSG are quite rigorous, and systems may initially fail to meet the requirements. In such cases the system must be modified and resubmitted through the certification process. Typically it will take between six and 18 months to obtain certification for a system, although there is no guarantee that a system will ever be certified.

It is important to note that this EAC certification process is voluntary in the U.S., with each state deciding if it will make certification by the EAC a requirement for the voting and counting systems used in the state’s elections. Each state may also apply state-level certification requirements. This state-level certification process will typically be used to ensure that electronic voting and counting systems comply with state-specific electoral legislation. It may also be used to complement the EAC certification process or as an alternative to certification by the EAC.

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