GAO: Certification program needs some fine-tuning

The Government Accountability Office said the federal system for accrediting laboratories that certify voting systems needs to be better defined and implemented.

The certification program was given to the Election Assistance Commission in the wake of the 2000 presidential election, and participation is voluntary. Because national elections are run by the states, the federal government cannot require certification to EAC standards, although most states require some level of certification. GAO did not look at the reliability of the voting systems being examined but critiqued the process for approving the labs that do the certification.

Labs are accredited under the National Institute of Standards and Technology's National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program, and EAC makes the final decision based on NIST's recommendations. Four labs have been certified, but at least two of the labs and several voting system manufacturers have run into problems for failing to meet requirements.

GAO concluded that the standards for accrediting the labs have not been adequately defined by NIST and the accrediting process has not been adequately documented. The auditing agency recommended that NIST and EAC retool the program to ensure that accreditations are performed consistently and are verifiable.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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