FEC Voting Equipment StandardsOn April 30, 2002, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) approved the Voting Systems Standards for release and publication, and on May 17, the new standards were posted on the FEC's website. They include provisions that will make it more likely new voting equipment can support instant runoff voting and cumulative voting.
The document represents a three year effort by the FEC, its Office of Election Adminstration, and election officials and administrators throughout the country. The Standards ensure that election equipment certified for purchase by participating states -- a majority of the 50 states at this point -- will be accurate, reliabile, and dependable.
Drafts of this document were released for public comment twice, generating significant public interest and comment from a variety of interests including vendors, election officials, academics, technical experts, special interest advocacy groups, and concerned citizens. Many sections of the Standards were revised to reflect issues raised by these comments.
With great support work by staffers Caleb Kleppner and Eric Olson and assistance from allied electoral reform and civil rights groups , FairVote-The Center for Voting and Democracy submitted two letters, one in July 2001 and one in January 2002, and its director Rob Richie was invited to testify to FEC commissioners in April. Perhaps its most important recommendation was incorporated into the final standards.
In Volume 1 of the standards, Section 126.96.36.199 on "Voting Variations" is introduced with this paragraph:
"There are significant variations among the election laws of the 50 states with respect to permissible ballto contents, voting options, and the associated ballot counting logic. The TDP accompanying the system shall specifically identify which of the following items can and cannot be supported by the system, as well as how the system can implement the items supported." The subsequent list of items has been revised from previous drafts to include: "m) cumulative voting" and "n) ranked order voting".
FairVote requested these changes in our January 2002 letter to the FEC -- both the recommendation to clarify in this section whether a system cannot support a particular feature and the recommendation to include cumulative voting and ranked order voting.
Note that these new requirements still doesn't mean a system needs to support alternative voting systems like instant runoff voting, but it adds to the pressure on equipment manufacturers to do so. It will take the work of supporters of reform in states to push for states and localities to require equipment support of alternative voting methods to be built into state law.