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Virginia > Title 24.2 Elections > The Election

§ 24.2-629 State Board approval process of electronic voting systems

Overview of Statute

This section describes the State Board approval process of electronic voting systems. Voting systems must meet requirements as outlined in this section, and the Board shall prepare a report of its findings.

Statute

A. Any person, firm, or corporation, referred to in this article as the “vendor,” manufacturing, owning, or offering for sale any electronic voting or counting machine and ballots designed to be used with such equipment may apply to the State Board, in the manner prescribed by the Board, to have examined a production model of such equipment and the ballots used with it. The Board may require the vendor to pay a reasonable application fee when he files his request for testing or certification of new or upgraded voting equipment. Receipts from such fees shall be credited to the Board for reimbursement of testing and certification expenses. In addition to any other materials that may be required, a current statement of the financial status of the vendor, including any assets and liabilities, shall be filed with the Board; if the vendor is not the manufacturer of the equipment for which application is made, such a statement shall also be filed for the manufacturer. These statements shall be exempt from the provisions of the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (§ 2.2-3700 et seq.). The Board shall require, at a site of its choosing, a demonstration of such equipment and ballots and may require that a production model of the equipment and a supply of ballots be provided to the Board for testing purposes. The Board shall also require the vendor to provide documentation of the practices recommended by the vendor to ensure the optimum security and functionality of the system.

B. The Board may approve any kind of electronic voting system that meets the following requirements:

1. It shall provide clear instructions for voters on how to mark or select their choice and cast that vote.

2. It shall provide facilities for voting for all offices at any election and on as many questions as may be submitted at any election.

3. It shall be capable of processing ballots for all parties holding a primary election on the same day, but programmable in such a way that an individual ballot cast by a voter is limited to the party primary election in which the voter chooses to participate.

4. It shall require votes for presidential and vice presidential electors to be cast for the presidential and vice presidential electors of one party by one operation. The ballot shall contain the words “Electors for” preceded by the name of the party or other authorized designation and followed by the names of the candidates for the offices of President and Vice President.

5. It shall enable the voter to cast votes for as many persons for an office as lawfully permitted, but no more. It shall prevent the voter from casting a vote for the same person more than once for the same office. However, ballot scanner machines shall not be required to prevent a voter from voting for a greater number of candidates than he is lawfully entitled to.

6. It shall enable the voter to cast a vote on any question on which he is lawfully permitted to vote, but no other.

7. It shall provide the voter with an opportunity to correct any error before a ballot is cast.

8. It shall correctly register or record and accurately count all votes cast for candidates and on questions.

9. It shall be provided with a “protective counter,” whereby any operation of the machine before or after the election will be detected.

10. It shall be provided with a counter that at all times during an election shall show how many persons have voted.

11. It shall ensure voting in absolute secrecy. Ballot scanner machines shall provide for the secrecy of the ballot and a method to conceal the voted ballot.

12. It shall be programmable to allow ballots to be separated when necessary.

13. Ballot scanner machines shall report, if possible, the number of ballots on which a voter undervoted or overvoted.

C. After its examination of the equipment, ballots, and other materials submitted by the vendors, the Board shall prepare and file in its office a report of its finding as to (i) the apparent capability of such equipment to accurately count, register, and report votes; (ii) whether the system can be conveniently used without undue confusion to the voter; (iii) its accessibility to voters with disabilities; (iv) whether the system can be safely used without undue potential for fraud; (v) the ease of its operation and transportation by voting equipment custodians and officers of election; (vi) the financial stability of the vendor and manufacturer; (vii) whether the system meets the requirements of this title; (viii) whether the system meets federal requirements; (ix) whether issues of reliability and security identified with the system by other state governments have been adequately addressed by the vendor; and (x) whether, in the opinion of the Board, the potential for approval of such system is such as to justify further examination and testing.

D. If the Board determines that there is such potential and prior to its final determination as to approval or disapproval of such system, the Board shall obtain a report by an independent electronics or engineering consultant as to (i) whether the system accurately counts, registers, and reports votes; (ii) whether it is capable of storing and retaining existing votes in a permanent memory in the event of power failure during and after the election; (iii) the number of separate memory capabilities for the storage of recorded votes; (iv) its mechanical and electronic perfections and imperfections; (v) the audit trail provided by the system; (vi) the anticipated frequency of repair; (vii) the ease of repair; (viii) the anticipated life of the equipment; (ix) its potential for fraudulent use; (x) its accessibility to voters with disabilities; (xi) the ease of its programming, transportation, and operation by voting equipment custodians and officers of election; and (xii) any other matters deemed necessary by the Board. Failure by an applicant to cooperate with the consultant by furnishing information and production equipment and ballots requested shall be deemed a withdrawal of the application, but nothing in this section shall require the disclosure of trade secrets by the applicant. If such trade secrets are essential to the proper analysis of the system and are provided for that reason, the consultant shall subscribe to an oath subject to the penalty for perjury that he will neither disclose nor make use of such information except as necessary for the system analysis. The report of the consultant shall be filed in the office of the Board.

E. In preparing the reports cited in subsections C and D, the Board shall require, as a condition of certification, that the system is comprehensively examined by individuals including at least one expert in election management and one in computer system security. The Board shall develop, in conjunction with the above listed individuals, a specific set of items to be examined and tested as part of the certification process to further elaborate on the requirements identified in this section.

F. If the Board determines that there is potential for approval of the system and prior to its final determination, the Board shall also require that the system be tested in an actual election in one or more counties or cities. Its use at such election shall be as valid for all purposes as if it had been legally approved by the Board and adopted by the counties or cities.

G. If, following testing, the Board approves any voting system and its ballots for use, the Board shall so notify the electoral boards of each county and city. Systems so approved may be adopted for use at elections as herein provided. No form of voting system and ballots not so approved shall be adopted by any county or city. Any voting system and ballots approved for use by the Board shall be deemed to meet the requirements of this title and any applicable federal laws, and their use in any election shall be valid.

H. A vendor whose voting system is approved for use shall provide updates concerning its recommended practices for optimum security and functionality of the system, as may be requested by the Board. Any product for which requested updates are not provided shall be deemed non-compliant and may be decertified at the discretion of the Board.

I. The Board shall have the authority to investigate, at its discretion, any voting system certified in Virginia to ensure that it continues to meet the standards outlined in subsections C and D. The Board may, at its discretion, decertify any voting system based on significant problems detected with the voting system in Virginia or on reports provided by federal authorities or other state election officials.

1985, c. 458, §§ 24.1-207.1; 1986, c. 558, § 24.1-206.3; 1993, c. 641; 1994, cc. 287, 742; 2001, cc. 640, 641; 2003, c. 1015; 2004, cc. 409, 993, 1010; 2007, c. 794; 2008, c. 703; 2014, cc. 540, 576.

Definition [State Board]

The State Board of Elections.

See § 24.2-101.

Definition [Voting system]

The electronic voting and counting machines used at elections. This term includes direct recording electronic machines (DRE) and ballot scanner machines.

See § 24.2-101.

Definition [Electoral board]

A board appointed pursuant to § 24.2-106 to administer elections for a county or city. The electoral board of the county in which a town or the greater part of a town is located shall administer the town’s elections.

See § 24.2-101.

Definition [Primary election]

An election held for the purpose of selecting a candidate to be the nominee of a political party for election to office.

See § 24.2-101.

Definition [Ballot scanner machine]

The electronic counting machine in which a voter inserts a marked ballot to be scanned and the results tabulated.

See § 24.2-101.

Definition [Party]

An organization of citizens of the Commonwealth which, at either of the two preceding statewide general elections, received at least 10 percent of the total vote cast for any statewide office filled in that election. The organization shall have a state central committee and an office of elected state chairman which have been continually in existence for the six months preceding the filing of a nominee for any office.

See § 24.2-101.

Definition [Board]

The State Board of Elections.

See § 24.2-101.

Definition [State]

A state of the United States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the United States Virgin Islands, or any territory or insular possession subject to the jurisdiction of the United States.

See § 24.2-452.

Definition [Person]

Any individual or corporation, partnership, business, labor organization, membership organization, association, cooperative, or other like entity.

For the purpose of applying the filing and reporting requirements of this chapter, the term “person” shall not include an organization holding tax-exempt status under § 501(c) (3), 501(c) (4), or 501(c) (6) of the United States Internal Revenue Code which, in providing information to voters, does not advocate or endorse the election or defeat of a particular candidate, group of candidates, or the candidates of a particular political party.

See § 24.2-945.1.

Definition [Primary]

An election held for the purpose of selecting a candidate to be the nominee of a political party for election to office.

See § 24.2-101.

Definition [Election]

A general, primary, or special election.

See § 24.2-101.

Definition [Candidate]

A person who seeks or campaigns for an office of the Commonwealth or one of its governmental units in a general, primary, or special election and who is qualified to have his name placed on the ballot for the office. “Candidate” shall include a person who seeks the nomination of a political party or who, by reason of receiving the nomination of a political party for election to an office, is referred to as its nominee. For the purposes of Chapters 8 (§ 24.2-800 et seq.), 9.3 (§ 24.2-945 et seq.), and 9.5 (§ 24.2-955 et seq.), “candidate” shall include any write-in candidate. However, no write-in candidate who has received less than 15 percent of the votes cast for the office shall be eligible to initiate an election contest pursuant to Article 2 (§ 24.2-803 et seq.) of Chapter 8. For the purposes of Chapters 9.3 (§ 24.2-945 et seq.) and 9.5 (§ 24.2-955 et seq.), “candidate” shall include any person who raises or spends funds in order to seek or campaign for an office of the Commonwealth, excluding federal offices, or one of its governmental units in a party nomination process or general, primary, or special election; and such person shall be considered a candidate until a final report is filed pursuant to Article 3 (§ 24.2-947 et seq.) of Chapter 9.3.

See § 24.2-101.