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NIST Delivers Updated Draft Standards for Electronic Voting Machines

Guidelines to Assist in Testing Voting System Accuracy, Reliability and Security

GAITHERSBURG, Md. – The Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) today delivered to the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) a draft revision to the 2005 federal Voluntary Voting System Guidelines (VVSG) Version 1.0, specifying how electronic voting machines are built and tested. The EAC has made the draft revision available for public comment today, with a final version expected by the end of 2009.

"The guidelines announced today are designed to further improve the quality and efficiency of the testing conducted on voting systems," said John Wack, NIST voting team manager. "This enables improvements to be made sooner rather than later when the next full set of standards is finalized."

The draft revision, titled "Voluntary Voting System Guidelines, Version 1.1," provides improved requirements for electronic voting machine accuracy, reliability, usability, accessibility and security. The strengthened requirements have been taken from the August 2007 VVSG recommendations delivered to the EAC by NIST and the Technical Guidelines Development Committee (TGDC). Because the EAC wants the draft revision to be achievable by voting system manufacturers in the near term, the revision requires no changes to voting system hardware and no significant changes to system software.

NIST has developed associated tests to go along with the revised standards, which will be available to the public and to federally accredited testing labs. 

Revisions include:

-Accuracy and reliability testing. Accuracy and reliability testing would be expanded throughout all testing processes to ensure comprehensive coverage of the entire voting system. Testers will evaluate all errors that could potentially impact the outcome of voting tallies, such as problems with voting machine printers.

-Paper audit trails. Requirements for those systems that produce paper audit trails have been improved to make them easier to audit, including additional information on the paper trails so they are easier for election officials to read and handle. 

-Cryptographic defenses to protect systems from malicious software. The draft revision requires election software and any updates to be digitally "signed" and requires that voting systems verify these digital signatures before accepting or running any software. Electronic records produced by voting systems also must be digitally signed.

-New reporting requirements for system manufacturers. Manufacturers will now be required to provide details of their voting systems' security architecture and usability testing results.

-Improved usability for poll workers. The draft revision requires clear operating instructions for poll workers including details on how to set up, start and close down the voting system as well as easily enable and configure accessibility features for disabled voters.

EAC will review the NIST-developed revisions and request public comment before the new standards are adopted.

The 2002 Help America Vote Act (HAVA) created the EAC to develop voluntary voting system guidelines and gave NIST a key role in that process. The act charges EAC with the development of voluntary voting system guidelines and established the Technical Guidelines Development Committee, which is chaired and hosted by NIST. For more information on voting standards and NIST's role, visit:

As a non-regulatory agency, NIST promotes U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness by advancing measurement science, standards and technology in ways that enhance economic security and improve our quality of life.

Released June 1, 2009, Updated January 25, 2023