NIST to begin accrediting labs for voting system evaluations

The National Institute of Standards and Technology has begun an accreditation program for laboratories that want to evaluate voting systems under the Help America Vote Act.

The 2002 act contains standards that must be met, beginning in 2006, for mechanical, electromechanical and electronic voting systems used in federal elections. These standards include:
  • A method to let voters verify and correct their votes before the ballot is cast

  • A paper audit trail that will serve as the official record of the election in the event of a recount

  • Accessibility for persons with disabilities and non-English speakers

  • A test error rate of not more than one error in 500,000 ballot positions.

The Election Assistance Commission enforces the standards, but accreditation of test labs is being done by NIST under the National Voluntary Accreditation Program (NVLAP).

NIST announced plans for the program one year ago and held a public workshop on the plans in August. NVLAP accreditation is a requirement for final certification by the Election Assistance Commission.

Applications are available and must be submitted by Aug. 16 for the first evaluation group. The first evaluations are expected to begin Sept. 15. Applications received after the initial deadline will be considered on an as-received basis. Laboratories must pay a nonrefundable, one-time application fee, as well as an on-site assessment fee and an annual technical-administrative support fee.

Requirements and forms are available by calling (301) 975-4016; by writing to Voting System Testing Program Manager, NIST/NVLAP, 100 Bureau Dr., mail stop 2140, Gaithersburg, MD, 20899-2140; or by e-mailing nvlap@nist.gov.

For more information contact Jeffrey Horlick of NVLAP at jeffrey.horlick@nist.gov.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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