Voting machine makers blast EAC certification program

Manufacturers call for a seat at the table on developing voting system guidelines

An election industry trade group has called for a revamping of
the voting system certification process now administered by the
federal Election Assistance Commission, calling the regulatory
process “a broken system that treats the regulated industry
more as an adversary and less as a key stakeholder.”

A report released Wednesday by the
Election Technology Council, titled “Broken: The Regulatory
Process for the Voting Industry,” calls for the EAC to
recognize the makers of voting systems as a regulated industry and
to give it a voice in developing certification requirements. It
criticizes the commission’s handling of the certification
process, pointing out that no voting system has yet been certified
more than a year into the program.

Commission Chair Rosemary E. Rodriguez acknowledged the concerns
but offered no comfort in a written statement.

“We take our responsibility to certify voting systems very
seriously, and we will take the time necessary to thoroughly review
them,” Rodriguez said. “Simply put, the EAC will not
sacrifice the integrity of the certification process for

Although ETC sees voting system manufacturers as a regulated
industry under the certification scheme, the Election Assistance
Commission is not technically a regulatory agency and the
certification process it administers is voluntary. However, some 40
states require some degree of certification for voting systems,
most of them using the federal Voluntary Voting System Guidelines
adopted by the EAC.

The EAC was created by the Help America Vote Act in the wake of
the disputed 2000 presidential election. It assumed responsibility
for the certification of voting systems, which formerly was handled
by an organization of state election officials, and a Technical
Guidelines Development Committee created a new set of certification
guidelines. Voting systems manufacturers are not represented on the
committee. The EAC has accredited a number of independent
laboratories to certify systems against the voluntary

Because of problems with paper and mechanical voting systems in
the 2000 election, many jurisdictions began moving to computerized
touch-screen systems. But these direct recording electronic systems
themselves have become controversial as questions were raised about
the security and reliability of the proprietary hardware and
software and the ability to meaningful recounts with an independent
audit trail. A number of electronic systems have been decertified
by some states.

The ETC complains that the industry has been shut out of a
rule-making process that it must comply with and finances through
its fees for certifying systems. Total costs for certifying voting
systems have more than doubled to $4.2 million under the
EAC-administered program, without yet producing a

“Although the EAC cannot issue rules mandating particular
types of voting systems upon the states, the voting system
manufacturers inherit a de facto regulatory process in which they
are left without a voice and without recognition as a regulated
industry,” the report says. “HAVA explicitly states
that the EAC is not a rulemaking agency except as it applies to its
functions under the provisions of the National Voter Registration
Act. However, the authority of the EAC to administer the federal
certification program illustrates that the EAC does possess, at a
minimum, informal rulemaking authority through its certification
program policies.”

The report also complains that that EAC’s touch rule
against ex parte — or informal — communication between
the commission and the industry has locked the manufacturers out of
the rulemaking process because they are not represented on the

“The ex parte policy itself is not necessarily
problematic, but this policy, combined with the lack of
representation from the voting system industry on any of the
federal advisory committees effectively shuts the industry out from
the EAC’s activities and positions the EAC and the registered
manufacturers in an adversarial relationship,” the report

The ETC called for the commission to recognize the voting
industry as a regulated industry and give it a place in the
rulemaking process, treated as a stakeholder rather than an

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.


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