The VVSG is a voting systems standard written for the next generation of voting equipment to be available in the approximate next several years. It is a complete re-write of the Voluntary Voting System Guidelines (VVSG) of 2005 and contains new and expanded material in many areas, including reliability and quality, usability and accessibility, security, and testing. The requirements are more precise, more detailed, and written to be more clear to voting system manufacturers and test laboratories, which has been lacking in previous versions of the voting systems standards. The language throughout is written to be readable and usable by other audiences as well, include election officials, legislators, voting system procurement officials, various voting interest organizations and researchers, and the general public at large.
The VVSG will be used by voting system manufacturers and voting system test labs. Manufacturers will refer to the requirements in the VVSG when they design and build new voting systems; the requirements will inform them in how voting systems should perform or be used in certain types of elections and voting environments. Test labs will refer to the VVSG when they develop test plans for verifying whether the voting systems have indeed satisfied the requirements. The VVSG, therefore, serves as a very important, foundational tool for ensuring that the voting systems used in U.S. elections will be secure, reliable, and easier for all voters to use accurately.
The VVSG is described as "Voluntary" and a "Guideline" because individual states and U.S. territories purchase their own voting systems and use them according to state and territory-specific laws and procedures; the Federal Government cannot dictate how elections are to be run. The vast majority of states and territories, however, now require that their voting systems conform to the requirements in the VVSG. Therefore, the VVSG can be considered for all intents and purposes as a standard and not voluntary.
The VVSG is titled as "Recommendations to the EAC" because it is not yet the final version that voting systems manufacturers and test labs will follow. The Technical Guidelines Development Committee (TGDC), a committee authorized under the HELP America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002, and researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have written the VVSG for the Election Assistance Commission (EAC). The EAC will make the VVSG available to the public for a series of public reviews, and after consideration of the comments, will issue a final version and subsequently require its use. Until that occurs, voting system vendors and test labs will continue to use the VVSG 2005 and its requirements.
The VVSG is intended primarily as a critical reference document for:
- Designers and manufacturers of voting systems;
- Test labs performing the analysis and testing of voting systems in support of the national certification process;
- Software repositories designated by the national certification authority or by a state; and
- Test labs and consultants performing the state certification of voting systems.
The VVSG contains the following sections:
- Part 1, Equipment Requirements: for requirements that pertain specifically to voting equipment.
- Part 2, Documentation Requirements: for documentation requirements that must be satisfied by both vendors and test labs â€" the Technical Data Package, user documentation, test lab reports, etc.
- Part 3, Testing Requirements: information and requirements about testing; the approaches to testing that will be used by test labs; the types of tests that will be used to test conformance to the requirements in Parts 1 and 2.
- Appendix A, Definition of Words with Special Meaning in the VVSG: covers terminology used in requirements and informative language.
- Appendix B, References: contains references to documents and on-line document used in the writing of this standard.
A separate volume of tests will accompany the VVSG in the future. The VVSG contains descriptions for test methods and general protocols for how requirements are to be tested, but does not contain the actual tests themselves.
The following sections contain further introductory and background material, with an overview of the document structure, its high-level contents, the history of the voting system standards, and how to read the document.