VVSG Introduction - Chapter 1: Overview

This document represents a recommendation from the Technical Guidelines Development Committee to the Election Assistance Commission for a voting system standard written to address the next generation of voting equipment. It is a complete re-write of the Voluntary Voting System Guidelines (VVSG) of 2005 and contains new and expanded material in many areas, including reliability and quality, usability and accessibility, security, and testing. The requirements are more precise, more detailed, and written to be clearer to voting system manufacturers and test laboratories. The language throughout is written to be readable and usable by other audiences as well, including election officials, legislators, voting system procurement officials, various voting interest organizations and researchers, and the public at large.

1.1 Purpose

This document will be used primarily by voting system manufacturers and voting system test labs. Manufacturers will refer to the requirements in this document when they design and build new voting systems; the requirements will inform them in how voting systems should perform or be used in certain types of elections and voting environments. Test labs will refer to this document when they develop test plans for verifying whether the voting systems have indeed satisfied the requirements. This document, therefore, serves as a very important, foundational tool for ensuring that the voting systems used in U.S. elections will be secure, reliable, and easier for all voters to use accurately.

1.2 Scope

The VVSG is described as “Voluntary” and a “Guideline” because individual states and U.S. territories purchase their own voting systems and use them according to state and territory-specific laws and procedures; the Federal Government cannot dictate how elections are to be run. The vast majority of states and territories, however, now require that their voting systems conform to the requirements in the VVSG. Therefore, the VVSG can be considered essentially as a mandatory standard.

This document is titled as “Recommendations to the EAC” because it is not yet the final version that voting systems manufacturers and test labs will follow. The Technical Guidelines Development Committee (TGDC), a committee authorized under the HELP America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002, and researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have written this document for the Election Assistance Commission (EAC). The EAC will make this document available to the public for a series of public reviews. After consideration of comments, the EAC will issue a final version and subsequently require its use in testing for Federal voting system certification. Until that occurs, voting system manufacturers and test labs will continue to use the VVSG 2005 and its requirements.

1.3 Audience

1.4 Structure

The VVSG contains the following sections:

A separate volume of tests will accompany the VVSG in the future. The VVSG contains descriptions for test methods and general protocols for how requirements are to be tested, but does not contain the actual tests themselves.

The following sections contain further introductory and background material, with an overview of the document structure, its high-level contents, the history of the voting system standards, and guidance on how to read the document.