Are states going to take over the task of testing voting systems?

The two-day “Voting Systems Testing Summit”, sponsored by the California Secretary of State, was a wonderful opportunity to hear a lot of ideas and perspectives on how voting systems are tested today, and how we might improve testing to insure that future voting systems have increased accuracy, security, accessibility, usability, and other important attributes. Once I pull my notes together, I’ll have some more commentary about some of presentations and interesting ideas discussed at the summit.

But many of the participants in the summit kept asking the same question — exactly what was the motivation for the California Secretary of State to host this event? Again, it was great to hear from election officials, vendors and academics about how we can improve testing processes — but why now, and why in Sacramento?

One interesting hypothesis circulated in discussions with many participants, based on two themes that clearly resonated throughout many of the summit presentations and discussions. The first theme was that the current testing and certification process is not working well, as vendors, election officials, and the academics seemed to agree that the existing process is broken. The second theme suggested a possible solution — a stronger role for states in the testing and certification process? There were many different suggestions made along these lines, ranging from states (California?) developing strong and independent testing regulations and procedures. Others suggested that perhaps there might be some ways for states — perhaps in a consortium — to collaborate on stronger testing and certification procedures. And
others argued for a consolidation of state and federal testing, to save money, time and prevent duplication of effort.

So this leaves open the question — will California take the lead on an initiative to develop a strong and independent testing authority within the state? Will California work with a consortium of other states to develop some strong and independent joint testing authority? If California doesn’t do it, then who will?

But many inquiring minds, at least by the conclusion of this summit, left with the conclusion that there is a strong possibility that, based on the presentations and discussion in this summit (and the simple fact that the California Secretary of State hosted and organized this summit that produced these discussions), California might lead some new initiative to develop a strong and independent testing authority that will either augment the existing federal testing and certification process or possibly work jointly with the federal process. If so, this could be a revolutionary new development in the testing and certification of voting systems.