ITAA: states struggle with voting system reform

States and counties waiting for additional guidelines from the federal government will be hard-pressed to get new voting systems deployed before next year's deadline for compliance with the Help America Vote Act, according to the Information Technology Association of America.

Even under a best-case scenario it will be difficult for states and counties to meet the HAVA deadlines for purchase and implementation of accessible voting systems, said Michael Kerr, director of Arlington, Va.-based ITAA's Election Technology Council in testimony before the Election Assistance Commission.

"Recognizing that it often takes three to six months for counties to select a system and complete contracts ? and many more months for shipping, acceptance and customizations ? waiting for the 2005 [guidelines] will effectively preclude counties and states from completing their transition to new voting technology under the deadlines established by HAVA," he said.

The first part of the Voluntary Voting System Guidelines is scheduled for release in June. The public will have 90 days to comment before it is finalized.

Kerr said voting equipment manufacturers and their customers may need two or three years to absorb and adjust to the new guidelines.

"It is unrealistic to expect that vendors, independent testing labs and customers will be able to make wholesale changes to current products and get those products certified and into the field for a national election in November 2006," he said.

The Election Assistance Commission should advise election officials that waiting for the guidelines to be implemented may jeopardize HAVA deadline compliance, Kerr said.

He suggested that instead of waiting, the commission should assure jurisdictions that equipment properly certified to existing standards can produce secure, accurate and reliable elections, thus meeting HAVA's functional requirements.

Finally, the systems certified to meet the 2002 HAVA standards should be grandfathered under the new 2005 guidelines.

About the Author

William Welsh is a freelance writer covering IT and defense technology.

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