Analysis of Certification Timelines

Just posted at A brilliant analysis by Nancy Tobi that uncovers the actual schedules and timelines for the voting machine product development cycle, revealing it to be a fraud on the American taxpayer.

I've excerpted the introduction here, but STRONGLY encourage those of you who are in it for the long haul to read the whole article. It provides powerful ammunition that should be passed along to ELECTIONS OFFICIALS, the MEDIA, and BUDGET COMMITTEES. A PDF version will be uploaded tomorrow.

Full article:



A Ponzi Scheme, by definition, is an artifice that is insolvent from its inception, thereby defrauding its funders (in this case, the taxpayers). Ponzi schemes work on the "rob-Peter-to-pay-Paul" principle, as new investment (taxpayer) money is needed to fulfill promises made on earlier investments (tax monies) until the whole scheme collapses.

Our nation has already suffered an incalculable blow from the use of expensive computerized voting equipment, which, by all accounts, has been an abysmal failure by every reasonable criterion: product quality, reliability, accuracy, and security.

Taxpayers are now being required to invest in a certification and voting machine procurement program built on a cycle of lag, non-implementation and obsolescence:

When you peel back the veneer of the whole Election Assistance Commission (EAC) Certification program, with its National Institute of Standards and Technology

(NIST) and its National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program (NVLAP) testing process, what you learn is that the entire system is, in effect, insolvent. Meanwhile, your tax dollars continue to flow into the system (to the tune of nearly $3 million in the EAC's 2005 budget plus nearly $5 million in

2006 and a requested $6 million in its 2007 budget).

When the inevitable collapses occur, as we are now seeing with DRE (Direct Recording Electronic) voting machines, we are told that we need to keep investing in them because ... well, because we now have so much invested in them. To that end, we are now hearing talk about turning existing DREs into "ballot marking devices"

The proposed Holt Bill (HR 811) attempts to require a text converter in every precinct

What is a "text converter" and what does it mean? Details on the text converter and its utterly impossible timelines are provided later in this report, but for one thing, the new billion-dollar unfunded mandate for "text converters" helps organizations that lobbied for HAVA's massive DRE purchases save face by preventing the entire DRE investment from crashing into the ground like the Hindenburg blimp.

Taxpayers and elections officials certainly did not realize in 2002 when HAVA was used to mandate the purchase of billions of dollars in new voting equipment that this was just the initial investment in what would become a continuing hemorrhage. The proposed Holt Bill furthers the investment in a certification and procurement system that is permanently in arrears. There is one difference between the Holt Bill and HAVA: If passed as written, Holt Bill costs will come out primarily from your local municipal and county coffers.


1. EAC approves guidelines (Voluntary Voting System Guidelines, "VVSG"). To help you track this process, let's follow an example. Suppose the guideline says "We've decided the buttons on voting machines must be RED."

2. EAC-certified test labs, in conjunction with the National Standards and Technology Institute (NIST), write "TEST SCRIPTS" to match the guidelines. For example, the test script says "Check that the buttons are red."

3. The states and federal government signal the industry that there will be adequate funds to pay for a new round of voting equipment (the industry will not begin product development for a specialized product without assurances there will be a market to buy their product). Upon legislation saying "every precinct must now feature a voting machine with a red button" industry starts making red-buttoned voting machines.

4. The industry uses the "TEST SCRIPTS" from Step 2 as specifications and requirements for building their product. In-house quality control will confirm "Did you make sure the buttons are red?"

5. The industry submits their new product to the test labs. "Here's my machine with the red button. Please check that it complies."

6. The test labs verify that the final product passes testing according to the original test scripts. "Yes, the button is red. This product complies."

7. The products are sold for use in the nation's election systems. ("Elections officials, here is an invoice for your new voting machines with red buttons.")

This is how it's SUPPOSED to work. Unfortunately, in real life the process doesn't sync up. It's implemented out of order, turning US elections into a vast and unreliable confidence game, where one bad investment chases another.

In real life, you get machines with YELLOW buttons, which are sold to elections officials because the standards stating that the buttons must be RED don't come out until two years after the machines are purchased. Later, in the process of dealing with the yellow button issue -- "No no, it must be red!" -- the guidelines committees also tack on another requirement: "It shall have talking ballots for people who can't read!"

Then Congress makes a law that says every voting precinct shall have talking ballots. So industry thinks money will be appropriated to pay for the new law, and begins to sell machines with red buttons and talking ballots. However the TEST SCRIPTS for the talking ballot feature are not ready until two years after the talking-ballot machines have been purchased by elections officials. And while NIST prepares the talking ballot test scripts, Congress makes a new law:

"Voting machines shall now be prohibited from using components made in China on the motherboard."

So while vendors upgrade the talking ballot feature to meet the new requirements, they replace Chinese components with variants made in San Diego, Tokyo, and Minsk. Except that no test scripts have been written for those variants...


Products procured before guidelines are established for them; Guidelines and testing programs, while trying to catch up to features in already-purchased equipment, add new requirements; Each new wave of guidelines obsoletes existing equipment; Successive waves of new investments (by taxpayers) are required to catch up to previous assurances that is, voting machines that don't count the vote, just mark the ballot for you -- basically, turning each DRE into a $5,000 pencil. And when that doesn't fly, we hear that DREs are needed for adding new features, like text and language converters. a demand which originates from groups that, it turns out, are the same ones that lobbied for the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) to require the multibillion-dollar DRE purchase in the first place. - A brilliant analysis by Nancy Tobi that uncovers the actual schedules and timelines for the voting machine product development cycle, revealing it to be a fraud on the American taxpayer.