[Federal Register Volume 66, Number 132 (Tuesday, July 10, 2001)]
[Pages 35978-35980]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 01-17110]



[Notice 2001-9]

Voluntary Standards for Computerized Voting Systems

AGENCY: Federal Election Commission.

ACTION: Notice with request for comments.


SUMMARY: The Federal Election Commission (the ``FEC'') requests 
comments on proposed revisions to the 1990 national voluntary 
performance standards for computerized voting systems. Please note that 
the draft revised Standards do not represent a final decision by the 
Commission, nor do they include proposed revised test standards. The 
FEC will publish a notice when the proposed revised test standards are 
available for comment, and another notice when the final revised 
performance and test standards are issued. Note also that the text of 
the final documents will not become part of the Code of Federal 
Regulations because they are intended only as guidelines for States and 
voting system vendors. States may mandate the specifications and 
procedures through their own statutes, regulations, or administrative 
rules. Voting system vendors may voluntarily adhere to the Standards to 
ensure the reliability, accuracy, and integrity of their products. 
Further information is provided in the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION that 

DATES: Comments must be received on or before September 10, 2001.

ADDRESSES: Copies of the draft revised performance standards may be 
found on the Federal Election Commission's web site at www.fec.gov/elections.html, or may be requested by contacting the Office of 
Election Administration, Federal Election Commission, 999 E Street, 
NW., Washington, DC 20463. They may also be picked up at the Office of 
Election Administration, 800 N. Capital St. NW., Washington, DC, Suite 
600. All comments should be addressed to Ms. Penelope Bonsall, 
Director, Office of Election Administration, and must be submitted in 
either written or electronic form. Written comments should be sent to 
the Office of Election Administration, Federal Election Commission, 999 
E Street, NW., Washington, DC 20463. Faxed comments should be sent to 
(202) 219-8500, with printed copy follow-up to ensure legibility. 
Electronic mail comments should be sent to [email protected]. See the 
Supplementary Information that follows for file formats and other 
information about filing comments electronically.

[[Page 35979]]

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ms. Penelope Bonsall, Director, Office 
of Election Administration, 999 E Street, NW., Washington, DC 20463; 
Telephone: (202) 694-1095; Toll Free (800) 424-9530, extension 1095.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The FEC issued the first national voluntary 
voting system standards in response to various States' requests for 
assistance, after a number of voting system failures in the field. The 
FEC's Office of Election Administration undertook this activity 
pursuant to its responsibilities under 2 U.S.C. 438(a)(10), which 
requires the FEC to ``serve as a national clearinghouse for the 
compilation of information and review of procedures with respect to the 
administration of Federal elections.''
    The FEC began developing the first performance standards and test 
criteria for computer based voting systems in 1984, subsequent to two 
studies. The first study was the 1975 publication entitled ``Effective 
Use of Computing Technology in Vote Tallying'', which was prepared 
jointly by the National Bureau of Standards (now the National Institute 
of Standards and Technology) and the FEC's predecessor at the General 
Accounting Office. This report concluded that one of the primary causes 
for computer-related election problems was a lack of appropriate 
technical skills at the State and local level for developing or 
implementing complex written standards, against which voting system 
hardware and software could be tested. The second report was a 
Congressionally mandated feasibility study published in 1982 and 
entitled ``Voting System Standards: A Report to the Congress on the 
Development of Voluntary Engineering and Procedural Performance 
Standards for Voting Systems''. This document, produced by the FEC in 
cooperation with the National Bureau of Standards, cited a substantial 
number of technical and management problems that affected the integrity 
of the vote counting process. It also detailed the need and 
desirability of having a federal agency develop voluntary national 
technical standards and test criteria for voting systems other than 
mechanical lever or hand-counted paper ballot systems.
    The original Standards took six years to develop. A series of 
public meetings were held. State and local election officials, 
representatives of voting system vendors, technical consultants, and 
others reviewed drafts of the proposed criteria. A notice soliciting 
comments from the public was published in the Federal Register on 
August 8, 1989. 54 FR 32479. The FEC reviewed all responses to the 
notice and incorporated corrections and suitable suggestions. Notice of 
the final Standards was published in the Federal Register on February 
5, 1990. 55 FR 3764.
    Thirty-seven States now report that they have implemented, or 
intend soon to adopt, the Standards. While most States apply the 
Standards only to newly acquired voting systems, States may also 
consider using the Standards to test existing voting systems. The 
National Association of State Election Directors (``NASED'') oversees 
the national testing of voting systems by independent test authorities 
using the Standards. The Election Center, a private membership 
association of election officials, serves as Secretariat for the NASED 
testing program.
    Today, election officials are better assured that the voting 
systems they procure will work accurately and reliably. Voting system 
failures are on the decline, and now tend to involve pre-standard 
equipment, untested equipment configurations, or the mismanagement of 
tested equipment.
    Nevertheless, after ten years of use, the Standards need revision. 
The technologies used to develop voting systems and way the voting 
process is administered had evolved and continue to evolve. The needs 
of the disabled community have been widely recognized. In addition, 
voting system vendors, NASED independent test authorities, States, and 
local jurisdictions have gained much experience in using the Standards 
and have identified areas for refinement.
    The FEC initiated this particular revision process in the fall of 
1999, after conducting an analysis to pinpoint where revisions were 
needed and to estimate associated costs. The production of draft 
revised Standards involved technical consultants, representatives of 
the two NASED certified independent test authorities, State and local 
election officials who are members of the NASED committee that oversees 
the testing process, and the Executive Director of The Election Center. 
Voting system vendors were also given the opportunity to comment on 
problems with the current Standards, the focus of and framework for the 
revised Standards, and an early draft of the functional requirements 
for the revised Standards.
    The proposed revised Standards separate the original performance 
standards and test criteria, which had been presented together as one 
large volume, into two volumes to better suit the needs of different 
user groups. ``Volume I: Voting System Performance Standards'' provides 
an introduction to the Standards, describes the functional and 
technical requirements for voting systems, and includes a summary of 
the testing process. ``Volume II: Voting System Test Standards'' will 
provide details of the test process in terms of information to be 
submitted by the vendor, testing conducted by the independent test 
authorities, and criteria for passing the individual tests of the test 
    To improve readability, the revised performance standards also have 
been reorganized to clearly identify individual elements as either 
mandatory requirements or recommended guidelines or practices. They 
focus on voting system functionality, identifying requirements common 
to all types of voting systems and those that apply only to subclasses 
of voting systems (e.g.; paper based versus all electronic, central 
count versus precinct count).
    The proposed performance standards provide expanded coverage of 
certain automated election management functions that interface with 
vote recording and tabulating systems; both on the front end during the 
preparation of ballots and the election-specific coding of software and 
on the back end during vote consolidation and reporting. They augment 
coverage of system requirements for feedback to the voter, audit 
trails, telecommunications, security, and the documentation of vendor 
quality assurance practices. They also provide new coverage for 
Internet voting, accessibility for disabled voters, and documentation 
of the vendor's process for managing voting system development and 
changes. The Commission encourages detailed comments on these new and 
expanded areas.
    The proposed performance standards no longer describe fundamental 
professional systems development processes. They do not address 
election practices and procedures that are not under the control of the 
vendor, although vendors will be required to document actions, 
materials, and environmental considerations necessary to properly 
secure, use, transport, and maintain their specific voting systems. 
This version of the performance standards also does not address many 
specific human interface considerations, except for the accessibility 
of information technology components to the disabled and some general 
provisions for ballot presentation, feedback to the voter, and warning 
signals. The FEC has requested funds to enhance existing documents and 
develop new ones to address these matters.

[[Page 35980]]

    The proposed performance standards also do not cover election 
administration databases and information technology that are not 
involved in ballot preparation, election coding of software, vote 
recording and tabulation, or vote consolidation and reporting (e.g.; 
databases used to manage voter registration, absentee balloting 
requests, precinct boundaries, poll worker remuneration, etc.). Further 
discussion of the reasons for these exclusions is contained in the 
Overview document that accompanies the proposed Standards.
    The FEC is now making the draft ``Volume I: Voting System 
Performance Standards'' available for comment. This fall, the 
Commission plans to publish a notice in the Federal Register to 
announce when the draft ``Volume II: Voting System Test Standards'' is 
available for comment. The Commission will evaluate comments received 
on both volumes to determine what additional refinements are warranted. 
Following this process, a notice will be published in the Federal 
Register announcing the availability of the final documents. Assuming a 
continuous funding stream, the Commission anticipates a final issuance 
date no later than April 2002 and will recommend to the States, voting 
system vendors, and independent test authorities an effective date of 
July 1, 2002.

Electronic Access and Filing Addresses

    Comments may be submitted by sending electronic messages to 
[email protected]. The FEC also accepts comments in electronic mail 
attachments and on disk that are in Word 5.0, or earlier version, file 
format. Commenters should avoid the use of special characters or 
encryption. When possible, commenters should reference the section to 
which a particular comment relates. Comments on the need to address 
issues not covered by this draft should identify the scope of what 
needs to be addressed as specifically as possible.
    Persons sending comments by electronic mail must include their full 
name, electronic mail address and postal service address within the 
text of their comments. Comments that do not contain the full name, 
electronic mail address and postal service address of the commenter 
will not be considered.

    Dated: July 3, 2001.
Danny L. McDonald,
Chairman, Federal Election Commission.
[FR Doc. 01-17110 Filed 7-9-01; 8:45 am]