April 28, 2006

Election Assistance Commission
1225 New York Avenue, NW
Suite 1100
Washington, DC 20005

Dear Commissioners,

We, the undersigned organizations and individuals, are writing to object to the replacement of the final version of the Voluntary Voting System Guidelines posted on the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) web site on January 12, 2006, with another version of that document. We believe that the revised document fails to accurately reflect the views expressed by many members of the public on the draft voting standards.

There are significant changes to section “7 Security Requirements” first outlined in the original final Voluntary Voting System Guidelines. The current version of the document posted on the agency's web site brings into question the integrity of the Election Assistance Commission, and the efficacy of the document currently posted as the final version. The agency acknowledges in its announcement in the release of the final document that, “During the 90-day public comment period, EAC received more than 6,000 comments on the proposed guidelines. Each comment was reviewed and considered by EAC in consultation with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in the development of the final version.”

The Voluntary Voting System Guidelines are intended to replace the 2002 Voting System Standards (VSS) developed by the Federal Election Commission, which guided the development and implementation of voting systems for several years. Although the guidance provided to states in the Voluntary Voting System Guidelines announced in January are voluntary, it was understood by the agency that many states will seek to adopt them as law. The agency noted that 39 states “may decide to adopt them entirely or in part prior to the effective date.” The agency also notes that a minimum of 39 states use the national guidelines in their voting system certification process.”

Each state is required to meet the requirements of the Help America Vote Act that mandates adoption of voting systems that permit voters to verify the votes selected by the voter on the ballot before the ballot is cast and counted; provide the voter an opportunity to independently change or correct any error before a ballot is cast, and provide notice of over votes by January 1, 2006. Further the law requires that all voting systems used in public elections must have a manual audit capacity. The law directs that the Election Assistance Commission to draft Voluntary Voting System Guidance to assist states in meeting the requirements of the Help America Vote Act.

The final guidance provided to states in their effort to comply with the Help America Vote Act administration requirements should not be a moving target. States and vendors are not the only ones who are interested in the details of the recommendations set forth. The 6,000 organizations, individuals, elected officials, technologists, students, election reform activists, and election administrators all have an interest in the guidance provided by the agency on the adoption of new voting systems.

Comments were received and reviewed by the Election Assistance Commission in accordance with the deadline of September 30, 2005 established by the agency. Those who submitted comments intended that their voices be heard on the subject of voting technology standards. The agency met its obligation to issue the final guidance, which was adopted by a vote of the Commission on December 13, 2005 and made public through its web site on January 12, 2006. The process was long and exhausting and should be honored by the agency as being legitimate. The changes identified in the current version of the Voluntary Voting System Guidelines bring into question the entire process.

Transparency and open government policies and procedures are not just words, but a state of mind. There may be otherchanges to the document that have not been identified, which makes the arbitrary action on the part of the agency most disturbing. The Election Assistance Commission should stop undermining the purpose that the standards are intended to fulfill. The guidance being given to states and vendors are also a guidepost for others interested in effective election technology that is in practice fair, reliable, secure, accessible, transparent, accurate, accountable, and auditable.

The Election Assistance Commission should hold itself to the highest standards when conducting its work on the behalf of the American public. For this reason, we request that the final guidance on Voluntary Voting Technology Guidance posted on January 12, 2006 be re-posted on the Election Assistance Commission's web site. We also request that this final version of the document be immediately published in the Federal Register as required by adoption process as outlined by Section 312 (4), which sets the condition of “Publication of the final recommendations in the Federal Register.”

We are committed to support the Election Assistance Commission in its efforts to improve election administration, transparency, security, accessibility, auditability, and fairness.


Computing Professional for Social Responsibility
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Electronic Privacy Information Center
National Committee for Voting Integrity
Voters Unite
Vote Trust USA
True Vote MD
Vote Rescue