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Voting Standards Guidance Sent to Election Commission

From NIST Tech Beat: September 13, 2007

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Contact: Gail Porter
301-975-3392

Recommendations for a new set of requirements intended to make future voting systems more “secure, reliable, and easier for all voters to use” have been submitted in a 598-page report by an advisory panel to the Election Assistance Commission (EAC).

The recommendations are a “complete rewrite” of similar guidelines issued in 2005 by the Technical Guidelines Development Committee (TGDC), an advisory panel established along with the EAC by the Help America Vote Act of 2002. The TGDC is chaired by the director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) with technical support provided by NIST staff.

The EAC is expected to conduct a series of public reviews of the TGDC recommendations, consider comments made, and then issue a final version, most likely in 2009. Voting systems will then be required to meet the final guidelines to receive federal certification.

Key new recommendations made by the TGDC to the EAC include guidelines that

  • allow auditing of voting system records independently from the voting system’s software,
  • allow each voter to verify the accuracy of their vote before leaving the polling station,
  • improve voting system reliability and reduce problems with failing machines on election day,
  • tighten security measures through digital signatures and other means to protect voting system software against unauthorized alterations, and
  • ensure voting systems are relatively easy to use accurately based on the results of laboratory tests in which participants vote in mock elections.


The report describes a detailed series of technical requirements that voting systems would have to meet by passing tests conducted by an accredited laboratory. The EAC ultimately will decide which requirements to adopt in the final VVSG. At that point, accredited laboratories would test voting systems for conformance to the VVSG and would submit their findings to the EAC.

The TGDC’s recommendations are called a “Voluntary Voting System Guideline (VVSG),” because individual states and U.S. territories determine their own election laws and thus are not obligated to use voting systems that have received federal certification.

To download a copy of the full report see: http://vote.nist.gov/vvsg-report.htm.