Is HAVA Being Abused?
The 1990 Voting System Standards are Certainly Outdated. Are They Illegal, Too?
by John Gideon and Ellen Theisen*
Section 222(e) of the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) provides that the 2002 Voting System Standards adopted by the Federal Election Commission are deemed to be adopted by the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) as the first set of voluntary voting system guidelines adopted under HAVA. [See the EAC website.]
Is HAVA Being Abused? The 1990 Voting System Standards are Certainly Outdated. Are They Illegal, Too?
HAVA was enacted on October 29, 2002. So why has the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED) continued to use the 1990 standards as the basis for qualifying some voting systems AFTER federal law declared the 2002 standards to be the official guidelines?
Before HAVA, NASED was in charge of the qualification process. HAVA gave the EAC responsibility for administering the qualification process, but since the Administration was nearly 10 months late appointing the commission members, the qualification process remained in the hands of NASED, and little changed.
In this process, voting systems are tested by Independent Testing Authorities (ITA) against federal Voting System Standards (VSS). Once the system passes the testing, NASED reviews the report from the ITA and if all is in order, NASED assigns the system an official ID# indicating that it met the federal standards. State election officials consider NASED-qualification an important factor when they are certifying systems for use in the state, and in some states, qualification is required by law.
Recently, when we saw a news article referencing a rule that requires all voting systems to meet the 2002 standards after January 2005, we were surprised. We contacted Brian Hancock, the ITA Secretariat appointed by the EAC, and asked him about it. In response, he wrote that, "NASED has incorporated testing to the 2002 VSS in several stages since these Standards were implemented. The attached NASED advisories explain this process."
The advisories explained a lot.
Early in 2003, shortly after HAVA was enacted, NASED adopted "Voting System Testing Updates" to the qualification procedure. An advisory of these updates was distributed to voting machine manufacturers, state election directors, and local election officials. The updated rules address the transition to the 2002 standards adopted by HAVA.
They appear to be phasing in new standards by indicating that:
On April 18, 2005, the NASED Voting Systems Board adopted an addendum to its testing update. The new advisory points to two of the rules in the update and states:
We asked Brian Hancock about this apparent contradiction of the rules, and he responded, "As for the Diebold system with AVPM, it will still technically be 1990. All hardware is 2002 tested, but there are still portions of the software not fully 2002. "
We replied with questions asking how the Diebold AccuView could be qualified, partly to the 2002 standards and partly to the 1990 standards, given the rules in the NASED advisories. Mr. Hancock referred us to Tom Wilkey: "As for the NASED decision process on the 2003 and 2005 guides, you will need to speak with Tom Wilkey as Voting Systems Board Chairman. Tom can most easily be reached via email."
Unfortunately, Mr. Wilkey has not responded to our emails, and we are left with quite a few questions:
 The four update statements are paraphrased here according to our understanding of their intent. When we asked for clarification, Brian Hancock, the ITA Secretariat appointed by the EAC, referred us to Tom Wilkey, Chairman of the NASED Voting Systems Board. Mr. Wilkey has not responded to our questions. The two advisories are here: 2003 Advisory; 2005 Advisory
* John Gideon is the Information Manager for VoteTrustUSA and for VotersUnite.Org. Ellen Theisen is the Director of Information Resources for VoteTrustUSA and the Executive Director of VotersUnite.Org.
Copyright © 2005 Vote Trust USA