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Voting Systems Accessibility. DBTAC Webcast October 15, 2008 David Baquis U.S. Access Board. Access Board Brief History HAVA and EAC Certification Accessibility . Types of systems VVSG Issues Resources Questions. Outline. ACCESS BOARD. What is the Access Board?.

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voting systems accessibility

Voting Systems Accessibility

DBTAC Webcast

October 15, 2008

David Baquis

U.S. Access Board

Access Board

Brief History




Types of systems





what is the access board
What is the Access Board?
  • Independent Federal agency
    • Distinguish staff from Board
  • Promulgates accessibility guidelines and standards for persons with disabilities
  • Provides technical assistance and training
  • Advisory role to the Election Assistance Commission (EAC)


Access Board does not endorse organizations, manufacturers, or product types. Technologies shown in this presentation serve only as illustrative examples.

fast facts in recent history
Fast Facts in Recent History
  • 1990: Federal Elections Commission (FEC) adopts the federal government’s first set of voting system standards
  • The National Association of State Election Directors (NASED) begins testing voting equipment against the 1990 standards; (NASED, a non-governmental entity, voluntarily offers the service to the states)
  • 2002: FEC updates 1990 standards
  • NASED begins testing voting systems against 2002 standards
  • 2003 FEC Usability Guides: development, testing, procurement
  • 2002: President signs The Help America Vote Act (HAVA)
  • 2005: EAC issued first iteration of the Voluntary Voting Systems Guidelines (VVSG)
  • July 2006: NASED terminates its voting system testing program
help america vote act and vvsg
Help America Vote Act and VVSG
  • 2002 Help America Vote Act (HAVA)
    • Created the Election Assistance Commission (EAC)
    • Requires the EAC to develop Voluntary Voting Systems Guidelines (VVSG). VVSG-2005 version completed.
    • TGDC (Technical Guidelines Development Committee) drafts VVSG recommendations. NIST (National Institute on Standards and Technology) director is Chair of TGDC.
    • Next iteration currently in rulemaking. You can submit comments during the NPRM (Notice of Proposed Rulemaking) period!
    • Many provisions included on accessibility
    • This is the latest federal rule on technology accessibility!
some eac program areas
Some EAC Program Areas
  • Voting Systems Certification Program:
    • EAC “certifies” voting systems
    • EAC “accredits” labs that do voting systems testing
    • EAC provides enforcement
  • Research program:
    • Study of alternative voting methods
    • Focus group with voters with disabilities on voting by mail
    • Study of voter hotlines
    • Election Day Survey Results
    • Uniformed and Overseas Citizen Absentee Voting Act Studies
select eac grants from 2008
Select EAC Grants from 2008
  • $750,000 in grants to encourage college students to serve as poll workers.
    • Has anyone thought of customizing a proposal focused on recruiting and training students with disabilities?
  • $200,000 for mock elections programs aimed at secondary school students (e.g., Quiz team competitions; mock press conferences; speech writing competitions )
eac clearinghouse technical assistance
EAC Clearinghouse (Technical Assistance)
  • Mandate under HAVA: EAC to serve as a central resource for information about elections
  • Quick Start Management Guides (e.g., acceptance testing; disaster planning; managing change)
  • Reports (e.g., accessibility review of California voting systems; election crime reports; innovations in election administration; successful practices for poll worker recruitment and training)
  • You can subscribe to “EAC Updates” email list
  • EAC aims to act in a transparent manner
what is the access board s role with respect to voting issues
What is the Access Board’s role with respect to voting issues?
  • HAVA directs EAC to establish 3 advisory committees
    • Board of Advisors
    • Standards Board
    • Technical Guidelines Development Committee (TGDC)
  • HAVA authorizes 2 Access Board members to serve on both the Board of Advisors and TGDC. Three sets of Access Board members have served so far.
  • Board provided regular input on VVSG. Also provided feedback on documents, such as poll worker training.
  • 2007: The Access Board planned and coordinated, with EAC and NIST, a workshop to train Voting Systems Testing Laboratories (VSTLs) on accessibility
current eac rulemaking
Current EAC Rulemaking
  • Phase 1: TGDC draft (8/07) published in FR (10/31/07). Opportunity for public comment via online tool (120 days). EAC public meetings to discuss proposed guidelines.
  • Phase 2: EAC internal review
  • Phase 3: “EAC version” of next VVSG iteration to be published in FR. Public comment period (another 120 days). EAC to hold more public meetings to discuss their version.
  • Phase 4: EAC will collect and review all submitted comments and make final modifications. The final version of the VVSG will be adopted by vote of the Commission at a public meeting and then published in the Federal Register.
voting systems test laboratory accreditation program
Voting Systems Test Laboratory Accreditation Program
  • This EAC certification program became effective January 2007
    • Previously, NASED (National Association of State Election Directors) certified systems for the FEC (Federal Elections Commission)
  • Established by NIST in 1976, NVLAP (National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program) assesses VSTLs (Voting System Testing Laboratories) in competency to perform specific tests. NVLAP provides report to EAC.
  • EAC may conduct further review of the recommended labs to address non-technical issues (e.g., conflict of interest policies, organizational structure, record keeping protocols).
  • EAC makes final determination of accreditation
voting system certification
Voting System Certification
  • “The purpose of the EAC’s national voting system certification program is to independently verify that voting systems comply with the functional capabilities, accessibility, and security requirements necessary to ensure the integrity and reliability of voting system operation, as established in the Voluntary Voting System Guidelines.”
  • Participation by states is voluntary, but most states (40) require national certification of their voting systems
  • Voting System Testing and Certification Program Manual
  • A complete voting system shall be certified, not a component.
  • Manufacturers choose the lab and pay the lab for the testing.
  • Note that although the federal government does not conduct 508 certification of electronic and information technology, EAC does provide HAVA certification regarding accessibility of this particular type of technology.
usability testing requirements
Usability Testing Requirements
  • Required of the voting systems manufacturers as part of the certification process
  • Four tests specified: general, partial vision, blind, and dexterity
  • Recommended: ISO 20252 Common Industry Format (CIF) for Reporting Summative Usability Tests
    • Each mandatory field must be described
    • Results must be included
  • EAC’s certification program establishes accountability through its Quality Monitoring Program which ensures, through various check points, that the voting systems used in the field are, in fact, the same systems EAC has certified.
  • Decertification is the ultimate sanction against a manufacturer. If a system is decertified, the manufacturer may not represent the system as being certified, may not label the system as certified, and the system will be removed from the EAC’s list of certified voting systems. Election officials will be notified about the decertification.
conformance vs compliance
Conformance vs. Compliance
  • Voting systems “conform” to the Voluntary Voting Systems Guidelines (VVSG) developed by the Election Assistance Commission (EAC).
  • When certified, voting systems “comply” with the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), which also sets forth some specific requirements of the voting systems.
  • States “comply” with their own state laws.
accessibility vs accommodation
Accessibility vs. Accommodation
  • In Section 508, accessibility refers to the technological environment, not to be confused with providing assistive technology. Think of the technology as “universally designed”.
  • In elections, voters with disabilities may vote independently at any polling place because every polling place is required to have an accessible voting system. Voters with disabilities don’t have to go to a “special” polling place. Think of the polling place as “universally designed”.
  • Accessibility is technology-focused and proactive.
3 types of access
3 Types of Access
  • Communication access
  • Information access
  • Physical access
paper ballots
Paper Ballots
  • First adopted in U.S. in 1989
  • In 1996, still used by approximately 2% of registered voters in US
  • Have been used as the primary voting systems in small communities and rural areas
  • Used for absentee voting
mechanical lever machines
Mechanical Lever Machines
  • First official use in 1892
  • Voter pulls down selected levers to indicate choices
  • Voted levers automatically return to original position when voter exits booth
  • In 1996 Presidential election, 20% of registered voters used them
  • They are no longer manufactured
punch cards
Punch Cards
  • First used in 1964.
  • Voters punch holes in cards (with a supplied punch device) opposite their candidate or ballot issue choice.
  • After voting, the voter may place the ballot in a ballot box, or the ballot may be fed into a computer vote tabulating device at the precinct.
  • In 1996 Presidential election, 37% of registered voters used them.


optical scan machine
Optical Scan Machine
  • Optical Scan systems employ a ballot card on which candidates and issue choices are preprinted next to an empty rectangle, circle, oval, or an incomplete arrow.
  • Voters record their choices by filling in the rectangle, circle or oval, or by completing the arrow.
  • After voting, the voters either place the ballot in a sealed box or feed it into a computer tabulating device at the precinct. The tabulating device reads the votes using "dark mark logic," whereby the computer selects the darkest mark within a given set as the correct choice or vote.
  • This technology has existed for decades and been used extensively in standardized testing and statewide lotteries.
  • Used for 25% of 1996 Presidential election
dre machine direct recording electronic
DRE Machine(Direct Recording Electronic)
  • Voter “directly” enters choices into electronic storage by means of a ballot display with the use of a touch-screen, push buttons, or alternate control.
  • A computer program records voting data.
  • After the election, it produces a tabulation of the voting data stored in a removable memory component and as a printed copy.
accessible voting station
Accessible Voting Station
  • HAVA requirements:
    • Each polling place will have one accessible voting machine
    • An accessible machine allows non-visual use of the machine in order to vote in an independent and private manner
    • New equipment must be available by 2006
    • Accessible machines may be used by any voter, with or without a special need
structure of the tgdc draft vvsg
Structure of the TGDC Draft VVSG
  • Introduction
  • Part I: Equipment Requirements
    • Includes accessibility, usability and security requirements
  • Part II: Documentation Requirements
  • Part III: Testing Requirements
  • Overall, the VVSG includes an introduction; glossary; and equipment, documentation, and testing requirements.
  • All information, including instructions; warnings; error and other messages; and ballot choices must be presented in an alternative format.
  • The voting system must have intrinsic support for voters with disabilities. No personal assistive device of the voter can be required in order for the voter to use the system. (Optional AT not precluded)
  • Accessible voting system (Acc-VS) shall be integrated into the manufacturer’s complete voting system to support accessibility for disabled voters throughout the voting session. (Gives test labs broad discretion to flag unanticipated system flaws.)
support for voters with visual disabilities
Support for voters with visual disabilities
  • Partial vision
    • These design requirements allow the voter to adjust the size of text and contrast of text to help them see the screen better.
  • Blindness
    • HAVA specifically called out this disability group.
    • These design requirements allow the voter a use an audio version of the ballot, and allow for control over navigation capabilities, rate of speech, volume, and the ability to repeat or skip information.
synchronizing audio with the visual ballot
Synchronizing audio with the visual ballot
  • Addresses needs of those with low vision, cognitive disabilities and poor English language proficiency
  • Visual and audio must agree and not confuse the voter
  • Audio reflects the context of the cursor, capturing the interaction capability
support for voters with dexterity disabilities
Support for voters with dexterity disabilities
  • Dexterity
    • No tight grasping, excessive force (>5 lbs), or twisting
    • The body cannot be part of an electrical circuit (for example, to use a touch screen)
    • Non-manual input methods for those who cannot use their hands (no solution yet)
support for voters with mobility disabilities
Support for voters with mobility disabilities
  • Mobility
    • Requirements are harmonized with the ADAAG
  • Difficulties can arise with
    • positioning for wheelchair users
    • standing and seated use
    • Interference with wheelchair controls and armrests, both frontal and lateral
    • machine support stand stability
  • Size of information is a performance requirement
support for voters with hearing disabilities
Support for voters with hearing disabilities
  • Hearing
    • Incorporate all audio presentation requirements, especially volume control and no interference with hearing aids
    • All sound cues also shown as a visual cue
    • Generally, voting systems do not pose a barrier to people with a hearing loss
support for communication disabilities
Support for communication disabilities

Support for communication disabilities

  • Speech
    • No voter speech can be required to vote
  • English Proficiency
    • Audio presentation requirements also support voters with low English proficiency or non-written languages.
ez access keypad
EZ Access Keypad

Buttons: home, end, next, help, action, back, down and up


Color coding shall not be used as the only means of conveying information, indicating an action, prompting a response, or distinguishing a visual element.



Accessible Voting ….

So easy a Caveman can do it!

~ The Gecko

It only took 45 minutes!


It’s 3AM….

which election official are you gonna call for an accessible voting machine demonstration?

~ Hillary Clinton

gao report
GAO Report
  • GAO (new name) = Government Accountability Office (not general accounting)
  • October 2001: “Voters with Disabilities: Access to Polling Places and Alternative Voting Methods”
    • 8 out of 10 polling sites have access barriers
  • Three Federal laws address access for people with disabilities to polling places: Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act; the Americans with Disabilities Act; and the Voting Rights Act.
  • New GAO survey planned for 2008


~ 1980



~ 1970



~ 1960



~ 2004

Evolution of Voting



- 1960

how to reach the u s access board
How to Reach the U.S. Access Board

David BaquisU.S. Access Board

1331 F Street, NW #1000 WDC 20004

202-272-0013 (direct to David Baquis)

800-872-2253 (toll-free in US)

resources 1
Resources (1)
  • Election Assistance Commission
  • E-Voting and Democracy in America (National Academy of Engineering, 2007) by EAC Commissioner Gracia Hillman
  • National Institute of Standards
  • Accessible and Verifiable Voting Technology: A Feature Comparison (by Verified Voting Foundation)
  • National Council on Disability Statement
resources 2
Resources (2)
  • History of Voting Machines
  • TRACE Voting Accessibility
  • Voters Unite
  • Voting Accessibility Issues – American Foundation for the Blind
  • Independent, Secret and Verifiable: A Guide to Making Voting an Independent and Accessible Process for People Who Are Blind and Visually Impaired; Prepared by the American Council of the Blind; September 2002
resources 3
Resources (3)
  • ADA Checklist for Polling Places – Department of Justice:
  • GAO Report
  • California Top to Bottom Voting Systems Review (Look for accessibility review report: HTML and PDF versions)

  • State IT Accessibility Initiatives:
  • Federal Information Technology Accessibility Initiative:
resources 4
Resources (4)
  • Guide to Voting Rights for People with Mental Disabilities
  • Improving Access to Voting: A Report on the Technology for Accessible Voting Systems (Word and PDF)
  • FEC Usability Guides: Developing, Testing, and Procuring Voting Systems
  • AAPD Disability Vote Project
sample faqs
Sample FAQs
  • Should we expect only one accessible voting machine at each polling place?
  • Regarding use of voting systems, how can consumers best prepare themselves for voting on election day?
  • How might state and local governments use their funds to better serve the disabled consumer interest?
  • Difference between requirements of HAVA and ADA?
  • If someone has a complaint about voting machine accessibility, who can they contact?
  • Can a person with a disability serve as a poll worker?