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Two e-voting test labs get thumbs up
Published: 2007-01-19

The U.S. federal agency in charge of government technology standards approved on Thursday the accreditation of two laboratories to perform certification of election computers.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) recommended that iBeta Quality Assurance and SysTest Labs be allowed to test election equipment under the current guidelines, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) said on Thursday. If the EAC approves the recommendations, the two companies will be the first to receive credentials under the new Voting System Certification and Laboratory Accreditation Program.

"EAC's Voting System Certification and Laboratory Accreditation Program represents the first time the federal government will accredit test laboratories and certify voting equipment," the EAC stated in a press release on Thursday. "In the past, these functions were performed on a volunteer basis by the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED), which did not receive any federal funds."

The security and reliability of electronic voting systems continues to worry many election experts and security researchers. During the 2006 midterm elections, a combination of ballot problems and the lack, on e-voting machines, of an obvious warning for voters who failed to vote in a race led to massive undervoting in Sarasota County, Florida, and likely gave the election to Vern Buchanan, a Republican representative.

The current accreditation program uses the 2002 Voting System Standards and the 2005 Voluntary Voting System Guidelines. The latest guidelines--dubbed the 2007 Voluntary Voting System Guidelines-- will likely include a requirement that a software independent audit trail be implemented by voting machines. Those guidelines will not be considered by the EAC until July 2007.

NIST made the recommendations in a letter sent to the EAC on Thursday. Four other companies--including InfoGuard Laboratories, BKP Security Labs, Wyle Laboratories and Ciber Labs--have not received a recommendation from NIST. As reported earlier this month, Ciber Labs lost its accreditation after failing to follow quality-control guidelines.

Posted by: Robert Lemos
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