GAO Criticizes Certification Program for Voting Testing Labs

By David Bruggeman
September 12, 2008

In a recently released report, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) criticized the voting system testing lab accreditation program administered by the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) and supported by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). You can read the report online.

The voting system testing lab accreditation program is intended to certify the processes and standards of those laboratories that test voting systems. The main thrust of the GAO criticism is that the supporting materials – the standards and program manuals – have not adequately defined all the aspects of an effective testing regime. What standards and practices have been put in place are not sufficiently delineated to the point where they can be used repeatedly and consistently. Now the GAO acknowledges that the EAC has responded to the report by taking some necessary first steps, but more needs to be done.

Attention in the press and the public usually focuses on the more explicit face of electronic voting – the machines and the actual elections. But voting is a process, or rather, a series of processes, that start long before Election Day and involve certification and approval of every piece of equipment and process involved. Just as electronic voting equipment needs to be well designed, engineered and evaluated, so do the organizations and processes that approve this equipment. If you’re curious about how your state certifies its voting equipment, check with the state Secretary of State or state elections department.