Federal Officials Want Public Input on Election Tech Requirements

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The most recent Voluntary Voting System Guidelines include a call for paper ballots.

Election experts nationwide will soon have a chance to voice their concerns with federal standards for securing and certifying election infrastructure across the country.

The Election Assistance Commission on Friday unanimously agreed to release the latest iteration of the Voluntary Voting System Guidelines for public comment. The updated standards, which provides a thorough blueprint for testing the reliability, accuracy and security of election equipment, are scheduled to post in the Federal Register within the next week, according to EAC. The public will have 90 days to respond.

The document, dubbed VVSG 2.0, is already available on the commission’s main website.

The most recent guidance includes updated requirements for voting system accessibility and security, like a call for paper ballots to facilitate election audits, the commission told Nextgov. The standards are rooted in more than three years of collaboration with the National Institute of Standards and Technology, election officials, academics and “thousands” of other voting experts across the country, according to the EAC.

Unlike prior versions, the most recent guidance is divided into two separate documents: a broad outline of high-level standards every voting system should meet and another framework detailing the specific manufacturing and testing requirements to ensure they do so. The principles document will go out for public comment soon, and the testing requirements, which are still being finalized, are set to be released in about three months, according to the commission.

Trivial as it may seem, dividing the guidance in this way could let the EAC respond more quickly to changes in voting technology and election threats.

High-level election principles like transparency, auditability, security and voter privacy are largely “evergreen” concepts, so future updates will mostly center on technical specs for voting systems, Brian Hancock, the commission’s director for testing and certification, told Nextgov. With those requirements in a separate framework, he said, EAC could accelerate the lengthy process needed to change them.

“Our hope is that could become a much simpler process, [and] therefore address changing technology and changing election requirements in a more robust and adequate fashion,” Hancock said.

Though the guidelines are voluntary, some 38 states use them in some form to test and certify their election infrastructure.