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VotersUnite: A New EAC Advisory And What It Means

The New EAC Advisory And What It Means

By John Gideon, www.VotersUnite.Org and www.VoteTrustUSA.Org

EAC Advisory 2005-004: How to determine if a voting system is compliant with Section 301(a) – a gap analysis between 2002 Voting System Standards and the requirements of Section 301(a)

During recent public forums, the Elections Assistance Commission (EAC) has been hearing from state officials, and others, that there is confusion over the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) Section 301(a). Section 301(a) sets forth the requirements that must be met by voting systems. Due to those concerns the EAC has published an advisory that explains more fully the requirements of Section 301(a).

The following is a discussion of that advisory. It must be noted that the author is not an attorney and any discussion of the legal aspects of the advisory are only the author’s opinion. For the reader’s convenience the author has incorporated into this document the contents from many of the references included in the advisory.

It is clear from this advisory that the 2002 Voluntary Voting Systems Standards are the only standards recognized by the EAC. Nowhere are the 1990 standards even mentioned. Yet almost all presently NASED qualified voting systems, including most of those qualified in the past two years, are only qualified to the 1990 standards.

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The basis for the information contained in the EAC advisory is the following (re-formatted for easier reading):

“Section 301(a) sets forth the standards that voting systems must meet after January 1, 2006. Those requirements include functions and features that, among other things:

(1) allow the voter to review his or her selections privately and independently prior to casting a ballot;

(2) allow the voter to change his or her selections privately and independently prior to casting a ballot;

(3) notify the voter when he or she has made more selections in a single race than are permitted (overvote);

(4) provide for the production of a permanent paper record suitable to be used in a manual recount;

(5) provide voters with disabilities, including visual disabilities, the same opportunity for access and participation (including privacy and independence) as for other voters;

(6) provide accessibility in minority languages for voters with limited English proficiency as required by the Voting Rights Act of 1965; and

(7) provide for an error rate in operating the voting system that is no greater than the error rate set forth in Section 2.3.1 of the 2002 Voting System Standards adopted by the Federal Election Commission (FEC).”

The advisory also explains why the advisory was written. Note that the explanation, which follows, clearly states that the requirements of HAVA are “ above and beyond” even the testing requirements set forth in the 2002 Voting System Standards.

“As such, EAC issues the following policy statement to identify the gaps between the 2002 Voting System Standards and the requirements set forth under Section 301(a) of HAVA and to explain what is needed to meet the requirements of Section 301(a) above and beyond the testing requirements established in the 2002 Voting System Standards.”

The advisory’s discussions of Section 301(a)(1) and 301(a)(2) concern overvote notification and audit capabilities of voting machines. These discussions are not a surprise and confirm what has been previously thought. The EAC reiterates that paper ballot systems can meet the requirement through voter education. This means that it is not necessary for election equipment to automatically notify voters of overvotes.

The findings of Section 301(a)(3) discuss, in great detail, the requirements of HAVA as regards voting systems and accessibility of those systems by disabled voters. Notice that while some voting machine manufacturers and state officials have claimed that HAVA Section 301 does not require accessibility for any disabilities other than the blind, this advisory clearly says otherwise:

“Compliance with Section 301(a)(3) requires that the voting system is accessible to persons with disabilities as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act, including physical, visual, and cognitive disabilities, such that the disabled individual can privately and independently receive instruction, make selections, and cast a ballot.”

This statement does not single-out blind voters or use them as an example as is done in HAVA. This statement is unambiguous and to the point_ on January 1, 2006 all voting systems must be accessible to individuals with a wide range of disabilities.

The advisory says that, in determining the accessibility of a system in conformance with HAVA Section 301(a)(3), the following seven factors must be considered:

(1)Section 2.2.7 of the 2002 Voting System Standards, which states in its introduction:

“The Standards provide requirements for voting systems to meet the accessibility needs of a broad range of voters with disabilities. To do so, it is anticipated that a vendor will have to either configure all of the system’s voting stations to meet the accessibility specifications or will have to design a unique station that conforms to the accessibility requirements and is part of the overall voting system configuration. Efforts to meet the accessibility requirements shall not violate the privacy, secrecy, and integrity demands of the Standards.”

(For the complete text of Section 2.2.7, see page 2-10 through 2-14 of

(2)Section (a) of the 2002 Voting System Standards, which says:

“To facilitate casting a ballot, all systems shall:

“a. Provide text that is at least 3 millimeters high and provide the capability to adjust or magnify the text to an apparent size of 6.3 millimeters;”

(Note: Section of the 2002 standards currently in effect requires that electronic displays provide controls that allow the voter to make this font-size adjustment. )

(3)Section 3.4.9 (a-e) of the 2002 Voting System Standards, which says:

“All voting systems shall meet the following requirements for controls and displays:

“a. In all systems, controls used by the voter or equipment operator shall be conveniently located, shall use designs that are consistent with their functions, and shall be clearly labeled. Instruction plates shall be provided, if they are necessary to avoid ambiguity or incorrect actuation;

“b. Information or data displays shall be large enough to be readable by voters and operators with no disabilities and by voters with disabilities consistent with the requirements defined is Section 2.2.7 of the Standards;

“c. Status displays shall meet the same requirements as data displays, and they shall also follow conventional industrial practice with respect to color:

“1) Green, blue, or white displays shall be used for indications of normal status;

“2) Amber indicators shall be used to indicate warnings or marginal status;


“3) Red indicators shall be used to indicate error conditions or equipment states that may result in damage, or in hazards to personnel; and unless the equipment is designed to halt under conditions of incipient damage or hazard, an audible alarm shall also be provided.

“d. Color coding shall be selected so as to assure correct perception by voters and operators with color blindness; and shall not be used as the only means of conveying information, indicating an action, prompting a response, or distinguishing a visual element (see Appendix B for suggested references);


“e. The system’s display shall not use flashing or blinking text objects, or other elements having a flash or blink frequency, greater than 2 Hz and lower than 55 Hz.”

(4) The fourth factor to consider is that “The disabled voter need not and in many cases cannot have an identical voting experience as a non-disabled voter”. In other words, though there must be accommodation for disabled voters in order for them to vote in private, the voting process does not have to be the same for them as it is for non-disabled voters.

(5) The advisory also points out that when using paper based voting systems, “jurisdictions must to the extent reasonably and technologically possible afford a disabled voter the same ability to submit his or her own ballot.” The EAC then gives the example of a privacy sleeve, which can be used to allow a blind voter to carry his or her ballot, in secret, from the ballot marking device to an optical scan machine.

(6) The advisory also, for the first time, recognizes that not every disabled voter is going to be able to vote “independently (i.e., without assistance from a person of their choosing or a poll worker)”.

(7) This advisory also clears up a common misconception by emphasizing that systems other than Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) machines can be used for purposes of meeting the accessibility requirements.

The discussion of Section 301(a)(4) concerns minority language and the requirement for machines to comply with the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and other federal law.

The discussion of Section 301(a)(5) reiterates the HAVA requirement that all voting systems must not exceed the error rates given in Section 3.2.1 of the 2002 Voting System Standards.

The EAC advisory is an essential reference document for all states and counties that are now preparing to purchase new voting systems. Few of the DREs presently on the market meet the standards outlined in the advisory. This advisory also clearly shows that proponents of DRE voting machines are incorrect in their arguments that DREs are the only accessible voting systems.

John Gideon
Information Manager
www.VotersUnite.Org and www.VoteTrustUSA.Org

VotersUnite! is a national non-partisan organization dedicated to fair and accurate elections. It focuses on distributing well-researched information to elections officials, elected officials, the media, and the public; as well as providing activists with information they need to work toward transparent elections in their communities.

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