Third lab OK'd to evaluate voting systems

The U.S. Election Assistance Commission has accepted InfoGuard Labs to evaluate state voting systems under the commission's accreditation program.

InfoGuard is the third lab to be accredited since the commission began the full program earlier this year. In February, iBeta Quality Assurance and SysTest Labs received the first two accreditations.

This program marks the first time that the federal government has assumed responsibility for assuring the reliability of systems used for casting votes in federal elections. The job had been performed by the National Association of State Election Directors, but the Help America Vote Act of 2002 mandated that EAC take over the task. Independent labs are evaluated for technical ability by the National Institute of Standards and Technology under its National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program. EAC then evaluates the labs on nontechnical issues such as conflict-of-interest policies, organizational structure and recordkeeping protocols.

EAC uses results of laboratory testing to certify voting systems. Systems can be certified against 2002 Voting System Standards used by NASED or against EAC's 2005 Voluntary Voting System Guidelines. Starting in December, systems no longer will be certified against the 2002 standards.

As the name implies, the program is voluntary, but at least 39 states required certification of voting systems under the NASED program, and most states are expected to require some certification under the current program.

EAC was established by HAVA to address programs of the disputed 2000 presidential election. In the wake of the election many states began updating voting systems, with many moving to electronic systems using touch-screen computer terminals. Concerns have been raised about the security and reliability of many electronic systems, and the Voluntary Voting System Guidelines include a requirement for a voter-verifiable paper trail in any electronic system. Such a paper trail or other independently auditable components would become mandatory under several bills now before Congress.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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