While the country is probably still a long way from online voting, some states are testing the waters and building technology into election-related processes. For the 2016 presidential election, Ohio will incorporate a common data format in its election management systems that will help election officials quickly and accurately collect election data from precincts with non-interoperable election management systems, and then quickly release that information to the public and news outlets. It’s hoped that the common formats will reduce the opportunities for error on election nights, when deadlines are tight and pressure for results is keen. Ohio’s changes are based on the methods outlined in the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s special publication: A Common Data Format for Election Results Reporting. … Many believe that no matter how strong companies like Smartmatic make their security, it’s impossible to secure votes across the hardware and networks that would make up an electronic voting system.
Examining election results to confirm winners and losers for very close elections can be problematic for contests that span multiple jurisdictions using different equipment and diverse data formats for reporting those results. Such differences have been a significant barrier to conducting post-election risk-limiting audits in time to change preliminary election results if necessary. To address problems caused by incompatible election reporting formats, the IEEE has developed a new standard for election results reporting (1622-2). This standard marks the culmination of over ten years of efforts by many individuals and organizations (including Verified Voting), with crucial technical staff support from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). In the recently completed 2014 elections, the Ohio Secretary of State’s office successfully used a draft version of the standard to report and export election results and the Associated Press Election Services used the same draft standard to import Ohio’s election results and incorporate it into their national election reporting for television, radio, and newspaper clients across the country. You are invited to weigh in: to see the proposed reporting standard and submit your comments and suggestions for improvement here.
Verified Voting has been actively working for a number of years to develop and promote adoption of national data standards for to support inter-operability, transparent reporting, and post-election audits comparing hand-eye manual counts of voter-verified records with electronic tabulation results. In 2008 and 2009, we submitted formal comments on the draft 2007 Voluntary Voting Systems Guidelines (VVSG) proposed by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC)’s Technical Guidelines Development Committee (TGDC). While the draft 2007 VVSG “encourages” adoption of a standard data exchange format to facilitate interoperability between different hardware components, Verified Voting and other groups and experts urged that voting systems be required to input and output data using a common standard format for election data import, export and exchange. As we pointed out, requiring standard data exchange formats can also help facilitate another important VVSG goal — interoperability of election hardware and software components from different vendors.
I recently received an email from John Wack regarding the new IEEE draft standard for election data – and it’s worth sharing key parts of it with you:
I’m writing [about] the IEEE 1622.2 election results reporting draft standard. I’m the chair of the sponsoring committee in IEEE and editor of the 1622.2 draft standard, and we’ve had significant input/buy-in into the standard from several of the manufacturers, a number of election officials including the Ohio SoS (who published November results in the 1622.2 format), and some industry groups such as the Associated Press. I’ve enjoyed working closely with Kim Brace [of Election Data Services, Inc.] especially, who was very helpful in making this not only a format for election results reporting but also a format for election management system import/export in general. Sarah Whitt from Wisconsin[‘s Government Accountability Board] chairs the 1622.2 working group and has been very helpful in attracting other election officials to the IEEE.
What does the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) have to do with elections? Glad you asked. IEEE, or the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, is the world’s largest professional association for the advancement of technology. Along with its major educational and publishing activities, IEEE is one of the leading standards-making organizations in the world. IEEE standards affect a wide range of industries including: power and energy, biomedical and healthcare, Information Technology (IT), telecommunications, transportation, nanotechnology, information assurance, and many more. In 2013, IEEE had over 900 active standards, with over 500 standards under development.
IEEE has many subgroups that establish standards for various industry areas. and one of these is IEEE Project 1622 (or P1622). This group has been active lately working on setting common standards for important election related practices, including things like distributing blank ballots (for voters who are overseas, e.g.). With Congress’ stalemate on appointing new members to the Election Assistance Commission (EAC), development and adoption of U.S. election data standards seems to be shifting from the EAC’s Voluntary Voting Systems Guidelines (VSSG) Technical Development Committee to the IEEE VSSC. Brian Hancock, EAC Director of Voting System Testing and Certification, spoke positively about this development at the recent conference of the Election Verification Network (EVN) in San Diego.
Following adoption of its initial proposed standard for electronic distribution of blank ballot information (1622-2011, published in January 2012), the IEEE Project 1622 for Voting Systems Electronic Data Interchange has been authorized to become the IEEE Voting Systems Standards Committee (VSSC).
One of the challenges faced by advocates of election audits and transparency is that current voting systems each record and store election file data in unique ways. This is no surprise given that vendors have long claimed that their systems are proprietary. But the current model of storing election data in ways that prevent easy sharing and analysis is proving difficult for election officials, statisticians, election integrity advocates, and even voting systems vendors. Because of these problems, serious discussion is taking place about what can be done about standardizing election data.
Often, within a single state there are many different voting systems from multiple vendors. At the same time, many elections, including most federal and statewide races, cross election jurisdictions so that votes for the same race are reported in different ways, depending on the system type used in each district. Even a single polling place may have different types of equipment – an optical scanner and a touch screen device for accessible voting for example – which report results in incompatible ways but which must be combined after the polls close.