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Standards Body Issues Detailed Electronic Voting Security Recommendations

December 5, 2006

The National Institute of Standards And Technology has published a set of Voluntary Voting Systems Guidelines that encompass recommendations for study on how to use technical solutions to ensure the accuracy and honesty of the U.S. electoral voting system.

"The first conclusion of this paper is that software-independent approaches to voting systems are an effective approach to providing comprehensive and precise audits of voting system records," the Guidelines say, "and that they should be required in VVSG 2007. Software-dependent approaches such as the (Direct Record Electronic, otherwise known as "blackbox" are not viable for future voting systems.

A second conclusion reached by NIST is that development of (Software Independent) approaches should not stop with current paper-based approaches and the needs of election officials as well as the needs of the accessibility community in dealing effectively with paper should not be ignored. NIST and the Technical Guidelines Development Committee must continue to work on usability and accessibility requirements for systems such as op scan and a Direct Voting Electronic with Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (DREVVPAT) voting system.

"There is good reason to believe that much more can be done to make these systems more usable and convenient for voters and for election officials who must audit them," NIST says. "Use of Electronic Ballot Marking (EBM) devices may be a more usable and accessible paper-based approach than regular op scan and DRE-VVPAT.

As part of this effort, NIST recommends that STS (Security and Transparent Subcommittee of NIST) with input from HFP (Human Factors and Primary subcommittee of NIST and CRT (Core Requirements and Testing subcommittee of NIST) continue to write requirements to make paper-based systems more usable, accessible, and easier to audit.

"Thirdly, the innovation class is necessary to encourage and promote new and innovative designs for better voting systems, both paper-based and paperless. We need voting systems that the computer engineering and security community can accept as reliable and secure, that election officials can feel are practical for them, and that are sufficiently usable and accessible for voters," the Report continues. "This innovation may not occur without a push from government or other sources to make it easier to vet, test, and potentially certify such approaches.

In keeping with the preceding goals, the paper makes the following recommendations:

1. Require SI voting systems in VVSG 2007: STS recommends requiring SI voting systems in VVSG 2007 and, conversely, not permitting software-dependent approaches.

2. Focus attention towards improving the usability and accessibility of paperbased
SI voting systems: HFP and STS should continue to work together to incorporate requirements to make op scan, EBM, and DRE-VVPAT more usable, accessible, and convenient to audit. If this work requires more time than allocated for VVSG 2007 development, some method for continuing this work should be

3. Include high-level requirements in the VVSG 2007 for new approaches to software independence: Directly testable requirements for E2E approaches are not yet possible, but STS, with HFP input, would include higher-level requirements to guide subsequent development and certification. It remains a matter of debate as to whether high-level requirements for software IV systems can be written at this
point without further research.

4. Foster development of new SI approaches: STS recommends that research and development of new SI and possibly non-SI approaches be fostered and that an expert panel be created to review approaches. Usability of these approaches should be a primary factor in their design, as well as whether they lend themselves to accessibility.

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