Elections:

Status and Use of Federal Voting Equipment Standards

GAO-02-52: Published: Oct 15, 2001. Publicly Released: Oct 15, 2001.

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Randolph C. Hite
(202) 512-6256
contact@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

Events surrounding the last presidential election raised concerns about the people, processes, and technology used to administer elections. GAO has already reported on the scope of congressional authority in election administration and voting assistance to military and overseas citizens. This report focuses on the status and use of federal voting equipment standards, which define minimum functional and performance requirements for voting equipment. The standards define minimum life-cycle management processes for voting equipment developers to follow, such as quality assurance. No federal agency has been assigned explicit statutory responsibility for developing voting equipment standards; however, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) developed voluntary standards for computer-based systems in 1990, and Congress has provided funding for this effort. No federal agency is responsible for testing voting equipment against the federal standards. Instead, the National Association of State Election Directors accredits independent test authorities who test voting equipment against the standards.

Matters for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Consistent with GAO's congressional consideration, in October 2002, Congress passed the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (Public Law 107-252). The Act established an Election Assistance Commission (EAC), whose members are appointed by the President, with the advice and consent of the Senate. In December 2003, the EAC commissioners were appointed, and the EAC began operations in January 2004. The Commission is responsible for developing and maintaining voting system guidelines. A subgroup of the Commission--the Technical Guidelines Development Committee, which is chaired by the Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology--is charged with developing the voluntary voting equipment guidelines.

    Matter: As part of the ongoing debate and deliberation over election reform in general, and the federal role in voting equipment standards in particular, Congress may wish to consider assigning explicit federal authority, responsibility, and accountability for voting equipment standards, including proactive and continuous update and maintenance of the standards.

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Consistent with GAO's congressional consideration, in October 2002, Congress passed the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (Public Law 107-252). The Act established the Election Assistance Commission, which provides for the testing, certification, decertification, and recertification of voting system hardware and software by accredited laboratories. To assist the Commission, the National Institute of Standards and Technology is to identify those laboratories to be accredited to carry out the testing, certification, decertification, and recertification. In addition, the National Institute of Standards and Technology is to monitor and review, on an ongoing basis, the performance of the laboratories accredited by the Commission.

    Matter: Given that no federal or state entity has been assigned explicit authority or responsibility for testing voting equipment against Federal Election Commission (FEC) standards, Congress may wish to consider what, if any, federal role is appropriate, regarding implementation of standards, including the accreditation of Independent Test Authorities and the qualification of voting equipment.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Since GAO issued its report, the "Help America Vote Act of 2002" was passed. As a result of this Act, the Election Assistance Commission is now responsible for developing and maintaining the voting system standards. In accordance with the Help America Vote Act of 2002, the Commission created the Technical Guidelines Development Committee to assist the Commission's Executive Director with the development of voluntary voting system guidelines. On December 13, 2005, in accordance with the Act, the Commission issued Voluntary Voting System Guidelines, which include requirements for usability (e.g, requirements that permit voters to verify their votes selected on the ballot before the ballot is cast and counted) and accessibility (e.g., requirements that make voting systems accessible to persons with visual, hearing, dexterity, mobility, and speech limitations).

    Recommendation: To improve the quality of FEC's voting equipment standards, the FEC Commissioners should direct the Office of Election Administration (OEA) Director to accelerate the development of requirements for equipment usability, including considerations for human capabilities and limitations.

    Agency Affected: Federal Election Commission

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Since GAO issued its report, the "Help America Vote Act of 2002" was passed. As a result of this Act, the Election Assistance Commission is now responsible for developing and maintaining the voting system standards. In accordance with the Act, the Commission created the Technical Guidelines Development Committee to assist the Commission's Executive Director with the development of voluntary voting system guidelines. On December 13, 2005, the Commission issued Voluntary Voting System Guidelines. The guidelines require voting system vendors to implement a quality assurance program, including conducting quality assurance reviews.

    Recommendation: To improve the quality of FEC's current efforts to update the voting equipment standards, the FEC Commissioners should direct the OEA Director to develop requirements for quality assurance, including developing a quality assurance plan and conducting quality assurance reviews.

    Agency Affected: Federal Election Commission

 

Explore the full database of GAO's Open Recommendations »

Oct 31, 2014

Oct 30, 2014

Oct 27, 2014

Oct 24, 2014

Oct 20, 2014

Oct 9, 2014

Oct 8, 2014

Oct 2, 2014

Sep 30, 2014

Sep 26, 2014

Looking for more? Browse all our products here