Verified Voting Blog: New Voting Systems Standards Committee Steps into Election Data Void

What does the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) have to do with elections? Glad you asked. IEEE, or the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, is the world’s largest professional association for the advancement of technology. Along with its major educational and publishing activities, IEEE is one of the leading standards-making organizations in the world. IEEE standards affect a wide range of industries including: power and energy, biomedical and healthcare, Information Technology (IT), telecommunications, transportation, nanotechnology, information assurance, and many more. In 2013, IEEE had over 900 active standards, with over 500 standards under development.

IEEE has many subgroups that establish standards for various industry areas. and one of these is IEEE Project 1622 (or P1622). This group has been active lately working on setting common standards for important election related practices, including things like distributing blank ballots (for voters who are overseas, e.g.). With Congress’ stalemate on appointing new members to the Election Assistance Commission (EAC), development and adoption of U.S. election data standards seems to be shifting from the EAC’s Voluntary Voting Systems Guidelines (VSSG) Technical Development Committee to the IEEE VSSC. Brian Hancock, EAC Director of Voting System Testing and Certification, spoke positively about this development at the recent conference of the Election Verification Network (EVN) in San Diego.

Following adoption of its initial proposed standard for electronic distribution of blank ballot information (1622-2011, published in January 2012), the IEEE Project 1622 for Voting Systems Electronic Data Interchange has been authorized to become the IEEE Voting Systems Standards Committee (VSSC).

Under an expanded charter, this new VSSC has set up four Working Groups, each with its own goals:

1622-2: Election Results Reporting (a UML model and XML schema for election results data)
1622-3: Election Equipment Event Logging (a set of standard attributes for event logging)
1622-4: Usability and Accessibility (Guidelines for Voting Systems Usability and Accessibility)
1622-5: Election Data and Process Reference Model (UML model and Glossary of Election Terminology

Members of the VSSC include experts from the major U.S. stakeholder groups:
* state and local election officials
* voting system vendors
* election data resellers (the Associated Press, Election Data Services)
* academic researchers
* non-profit organizations (PEW Project on the States, Verified Voting, etc.)
* staff experts from the National Institutes for Standards and Technology

The 1622-2 and 1622-3 groups hope to circulate draft standards for Election Results Reporting and Event Logging before the end of 2014. When the 1622-2 first began meeting, most of its members thought it would produce a standard based on EML, the Election Markup Language, an international standard based on XML which was developed initially for Europe by an OASIS working group on election data standards. Over the past year, however, the 1622-2 Working Group decided to focus instead on a higher-level abstract data model using the Universal Modeling Language (UML). The UML model can be used to automatically generate different implementations, such as XML and JSON. Working groups 1622-4 and 1622-5 are just getting started on their projects to develop Voting Systems Usability and Accessibility Guidelines and a comprehensive Election Data and Process Reference Model, respectively.


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