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The federal government voted Wednesday to accredit iBeta Quality Assurance and Sys Test Labs to test electronic voting systems.
The U.S. Election Assistance Commission's approval of the two companies marks the first time the federal government has accredited e-voting test labs and had a hand in certifying voting equipment. Volunteers with the National Association of State Election Directors used to accredit companies. Thirty-nine states required the accreditation, according to the commission, which predicts those states will now require federal certification.
"For the very first time, the federal government is in the business of testing and certifying voting equipment and software," Donetta Davidson, EAC chairwoman, said in a prepared statement. "With these two voting system test labs on board, we will begin the process of testing voting equipment to ensure that these systems meet all of the requirements to ensure accurate and reliable elections."
Laboratories earn accreditation if they follow procedures established by the Help America Vote Act of 2002. The National Institute for Standards and Technology reviews the systems and makes recommendations to the EAC, an independent, bipartisan commission with ultimate responsibility for accreditation.
About two weeks ago, the commission voted to stop accepting applications for interim accreditation on March 5, because the full accreditation program is under way. Interim accreditation requires that companies meet the 2002 standards, not the voluntary guidelines established in 2005. Sys Test and Wyle Laboratories received interim accreditation. Ciber Inc. applied for it and has until March 5 to submit information requested by the commission.
Although Ciber maintains that its testing is up to par, the company is attempting to gain accreditation amid growing concerns about its ability to meet federal standards. The EAC declined to accredit Ciber in July 2006 but didn't announce the decision until recently, putting New York state behind schedule in its plans to upgrade from squeaky old lever machines. State election officials have said that the lack of accreditation is delaying New York's compliance with HAVA and may threaten related federal funds.