Flaws in the Election Assistance Commission
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid recently appointed Barbara Simons to the Election Assistance Commission’s Board of Advisors, the federal body that sets voting technology standards for states that volunteer to be bound by them. As noted e-voting expert and computer scientist Professor Ed Felten explains, Simons is an accomplished computer scientist who will provide badly needed expertise on voting technology to the 37-member board. Before Simons’s appointment, none of the four board seats allocated for “professionals in the field of science and technology” had been filled.
Although appointing Simons is an important step in the right direction, more e-voting experts and technologists must be appointed and now. The EAC’s board is knee-deep in public hearings about the newest version of the Voluntary Voting Standards Guidelines (VVSG). This version of the VVSG—a massive 600 page document—has received serious criticism for its prescription of numerous contested requirements for voting technology that arguably hinder experimentation. The critics’ argument makes a tremendous amount of sense as rapidly-changing technologies are often best guided by standards that can accommodate rapid change. Professor Felten suggests that 10% of the board ought to be reserved for technologists. Even more technologists would be better as a central function of the EAC is the enhance accuracy and security of voting technologies. The majority and minority leaders of the House and Senate who appoint the board members should be seriously considering appointing e-voting experts, such as Professors Felten, Dan Wallach, and Avi Rubin for board membership.