The Election Assistance Commission (EAC) was established by Congress in 2002 to help improve the administration of federal elections by — among other things — administering the distribution of federal funds to the states for the replacement of older voting technologies, providing voluntary guidance to states on implementing certain provisions of the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA), serving as a national clearinghouse of state experiences in implementing such guidance and operating voting systems in general, conducting studies, and helping to develop voluntary standards and testing for election equipment.
Among other things, EAC is responsible for (1) providing voluntary guidance to states implementing certain HAVA provisions, (2) serving as a national clearinghouse for election-related information and a resource for information with respect to the administration of federal elections, (3) conducting studies, (4) administering programs that provide federal funds for states to make improvements to some aspects of election administration, (5) accrediting independent voting system test laboratories, and (6) certifying voting systems. EAC is led by four commissioners who are to be appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. The services and resources that EAC provides in discharging its responsibilities are discussed below.
Providing Voluntary Guidance Edit
HAVA requires EAC to adopt a set of federal voting system standards. In December 2005, EAC adopted the voluntary guidelines, which define a set of specifications and requirements against which voting systems are to be designed, developed, and tested to determine whether they provide the functionality, accessibility, and security capabilities required to help ensure the integrity of voting systems. As such, the voluntary guidelines specify the functional requirements, performance characteristics, documentation requirements, and test evaluation criteria for the federal certification of voting systems.
In 2007, the EAC’s guidelines committee submitted to EAC the next update to the voluntary guidelines.
Serving as an Information Clearinghouse Edit
HAVA requires EAC to maintain a clearinghouse of information on the experiences of state and local governments relative to, among other things, implementing the voluntary voting system guidelines and operating voting systems. As part of this responsibility, EAC has created a space on its website to post or link to voting system reports and studies that have been conducted or commissioned by a state or local government that reflect its experience in operating a voting system or implementing the voluntary guidelines. EAC does not review the information for quality and does not endorse the reports and studies.
Administering Provision of Federal Funds Edit
HAVA requires EAC to administer a program to disburse funding to states for the replacement of older voting equipment and election administration improvements under Title III of HAVA. EAC began distributing funds in 2004 for (1) helping states meet HAVA’s Title III requirements for uniform and nondiscriminatory election technology and administration, including the act’s requirements pertaining to voting system standards; (2) provisional voting; (3) voting information; (4) a computerized statewide voter registration list; and (5) identification of first-time voters who register to vote by mail.
Accrediting Independent Test Laboratories Edit
HAVA assigned responsibilities for laboratory accreditation to both EAC and NIST. In general, NIST focuses on assessing laboratory technical qualifications and recommends laboratories to EAC for accreditation. EAC uses NIST’s assessment results and recommendations, and augments them with its own review of related laboratory testing documentation to reach an accreditation decision.
Certifying Voting Systems Edit
HAVA requires EAC to provide for the testing, certification, decertification, and recertification of voting system hardware and software. According to EAC’s Testing and Certification Program Manual, EAC certification means that a voting system has been successfully tested by an accredited, independent testing laboratory; meets requirements set forth in a specific set of federal voting system standards; and performs according to the vendor’s specifications.
For fiscal year 2007, EAC’s appropriation totaled $16.2 million. EAC reported that this included $6.7 million (48.4 percent) for activities related to improving voting technology, such as accrediting voting system laboratories and managing the voting system certification process; $2.7 million (19.5 percent) for EAC administration activities and Federal Register notices; $2.4 million (17.1 percent) for HAVA funds management activities; and $1.8 million (13.3 percent) for the production and distribution of election management guidelines and related quick start management guides. The remaining funds went toward meetings for the Standards Board and Board of Advisors. EAC’s budget for fiscal year 2008 is $16.53 million and its budget request for fiscal year 2009 is around $16.7 million.
- ↑ Prior to HAVA, no federal agency was assigned or assumed responsibility for testing and certifying voting systems against the federal standards. Instead, the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED), through its Voting Systems Committee, assumed this responsibility by accrediting independent test authorities, which in turn tested equipment against the standards. This program was discontinued in July 2006.