Yesterday, LDF President Harvey Tettlebaum submitted a comment to the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) regarding the proposed Voluntary Voting Systems Guidelines (VVSG) 2.0 Requirements.
Last year, the EAC adopted its first round of VVSG updates – the VVSG 2.0 Principles and Guidelines – after finally securing a quorum, which brought much-needed technology updates to the certification standards for many voting systems used throughout the United States. The newly proposed VVSG 2.0 Requirements are the second round of updates and provide necessary and important standards for manufacturers to build election systems that meet the new requirements for certification under the EAC Testing and Certification Program. Together these two give valuable clarity to voting system vendors and the EAC-accredited laboratories that intend to use the Requirements to certify voting systems under VVSG 2.0.
LDF’s comment cautioned the Commission on three fronts:
- The need for bipartisan consideration of the proposed VVSG 2.0 Requirements,
- The need for the VVSG 2.0 Requirements to be considered in conjunction with the already adopted VVSG 2.0 Principles and Guidelines, and
- The need for continued oversight of the Commission for any official EAC action.
Like the Federal Election Commission, the EAC is structured to require a minimum of bipartisan approval to take official action, which prevents members of one party from being able to make a decision without the support of at least one member of the other major party. Of the two Republican commissioners and two Democratic commissioners, three votes are required to approve any action. Bipartisan approval of the standards governing our elections is vital to ensuring that our election systems are fair, transparent, and honest in both perception and reality.
Bipartisan approval by the EAC commissioners is necessary in adopting the new Requirements. Without a bipartisan consensus, the legitimacy of the VVSG and the perceived fairness of election administration are in jeopardy. To neglect the bipartisan nature of the EAC and the EAC advisory board process in the decision-making process would directly hamper public confidence and trust in the VVSG and negatively affect the support of the many stakeholders within the election community.
Joint Consideration of the Requirements and the Principles and Guidelines
[I]t is essential that the proposed Requirements and future updates to the Requirements be considered together and in conjunction with the Principles and Guidelines, as the practice has been in the past. Allowing them to be considered separately would usurp the power of the commissioners to draft and approve the Requirements and instead place this power in the hands of the EAC staff. It would violate federal law and the Administrative Procedures Act (APA)…
EAC staff are not held to the same level of accountability as EAC commissioners. EAC commissioners are nominated by the President of the United States and are confirmed by the Senate before being commissioned to uphold the Constitution and the laws of the United States. If the EAC staff and not the duly appointed commissioners exercise this power, it threatens the legitimacy of the agency as a whole, no matter how honorable and knowledgeable the staff may be.
[T]he Requirements are required to have commissioner oversight and be voted on by the Commission before implementation in order to satisfy the requirements of HAVA. The oversight of the Commission in any decision gives legitimacy of the EAC’s actions. To divide the Principles and Guidelines from the Requirements would reduce both Congress’ and the commissioners’ supervision, impairing vital oversight needed in the process. The EAC should not and cannot attempt to bypass the authority of Congress by disregarding HAVA to consider the Principles and Requirements separately. To do so would directly usurp the VVSG approval process. The Requirements, as they correspond to the Principles and Guidelines, are subject to the procedures mandated by HAVA and must be kept under the oversight of the commissioners, who act in a bipartisan manner.