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Independent Living News & Policy from the National Council on Independent Living

Election Assistance Commission to Discuss Next Generation of Voting Machine Accessibility Guidelines

The Federal Government is setting standards for the next generation of voting machines. All manufacturers and most states buy equipment built to these standards, called VVSG (Voluntary Voting System Guidelines). On September 11th and 12th, the Technical Guidelines Development Committee (TGDC) will convene to discuss the development of the VVSG, 2.0. The development of the VVSG are critical to improving the accessibility of America’s voting systems and software, according to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) as they “provide a set of specifications and requirements against [which] systems can be tested to determine if they provide all of the basic functionality, accessibility, and security capabilities required of voting systems.” It is vital that disability organizations and advocates pay attention to the development of the VVSG 2.0, the fifth iteration of these standards, so that they can provide comments to ensure that the perspective and interests of people with disabilities in casting a private and independent ballot are taken seriously. 

NCIL logo - National Council on Independent LivingThe TGDC, which consists of U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), will be discussing new guidelines on basic functionality, accessibility, and security capabilities to be outlined in the VVSG 2.0. Following the development of these guidelines, the TGDC will solicit feedback, and then a final ruling will be issued by the EAC, finalizing the standards as VVSG 2.0 and replacing prior iterations of this document. Following the finalization of this document, states will use these guidelines as requirements and specifications against which to test and buy new voting systems, to see if they meet the standards set forth by the VVSG, and to inform upgrades to their voting infrastructure.

Following the 2016 election, the security of America’s voting systems has become of even greater concern, and in response, election officials are urging security changes that could set back the accessibility of our voting systems, such as moving back to all-paper ballots. It is critical that advocates in the disability community make it known that security must not be achieved by sacrificing the accessibility of voting machines. There are already many barriers in place to casting a private and independent ballot, including poorly trained poll workers, reliance on paper ballots and outdated voting equipment, physical barriers to polling places, and inaccessible online voting registration and election information. Security of our voting systems is extremely important, but so is ensuring that all Americans have the right and ability to cast a private and independent ballot. Security and accessibility must be considered of equal importance for the right to vote to be secure for all Americans, with and without disabilities.

If you are interested in learning more about the VVSG 2.0, please read the following Issue Brief entitled “Legal Requirements of Voting Accessibility” (Word document). In addition, Diane Golden, Ph.D., Director of Programs and Technical Assistance at the Association of Assistive Technology Act Programs, has made comments on VVSG 2.0.

The TGDC will convene in Silver Spring, Maryland at EAC headquarters on September 11 and 12, 2017 to discuss VVSG 2.0. These meetings will be available to watch via live stream. Please visit the EAC’s website for a draft agenda and meeting information.

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