This past Monday and Tuesday I participated in the California Secretary of State's Voting Systems Testing Summit, along with about 125 other people. Other participants included many California local election officials, election officials from other states, representatives of the EAC and NASED, voting equipment vendors, computer scientists, academics, and a few activists. Though the event was not open to the public, the Secretary of State's staff did invite a fairly diverse group of people to attend, and permitted reporters to sit in on the sessions.
My presentation focused on the purpose for which voter verified paper audit trails should be used. While there were many people in the audience who have been longtime opponents of a voter verified paper audit trail requirement, I felt my remarks were well-received. All in all, I found the summit to be a good opportunity to talk with people from a variety of perspectives.
Based on the presentations made, I get the feeling that many folks involved in elections are slowly beginning to acknowledge the weaknesses of the federal government's current oversight of voting systems. For example, two representatives from Independent Testing Authorities (ITAs) were scheduled to speak, but only one showed up. Several summit participants expressed disappointment that the representative from Wyle Labs did not show up, since Wyle has been one of the most prominent ITAs involved in the federal voting system qualification process.
It's clear that many states are in the same situation -- facing looming voting equipment deadlines to comply with the Help America Vote Act's accessibility requirements, but not feeling confident about the voting equipment choices before them. Tuesday's Sacramento Bee featured an article by Kevin Yamamura which discusses California Secretary of State Bruce McPherson's comments at the summit and reports that he may not certify any more voting systems before the end of the year, which will make it difficult for current Diebold customers to comply with the HAVA mandate.