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Author: Gracia Hillman
The U.S. Election Assistance Commission was established in 2002 to ensure that elections are accurate, accessible, and auditable.
American democracy depends on two things—citizen participation and fair and accurate elections—and both of these depend on how well elections are conducted. Administering an election is a complex undertaking that involves numerous people, processes, and machines. The underpinning of fair and accurate elections is voting systems that have been rigorously tested for reliability and accuracy to ensure that every vote on every ballot is counted and reported correctly.
Another important element is an election administration process overseen by skilled management and supported by trained poll workers to minimize errors and maximize security and accessibility. Myriad federal, state, and local laws, policies, regulations, and procedures must be taken into account for there to be accurate, open, accessible, and secure elections.
Election processes are only one part of what makes a democracy work. The other part is citizen participation, which requires that the public have confidence that the election system has a high level of integrity and minimal error. To that end, citizens must be educated about election administration processes, including the systems used for casting and counting votes. The public should have the opportunity to learn about the processes, such as how voting systems are set up and how votes are counted. At a time when electronic voting (e-voting) and other technological advances are transforming elections—creating opportunities for improvement but also raising new challenges—voter confidence in the election system is critical. To ensure that the American election system remains strong, all of these factors must be addressed.
Election integrity requires accurate, reliable, accessible, and auditable voting systems. The recount of votes in Florida following the November 2000 presidential election exposed the shortcomings of punch-card and lever voting systems. To address these and other concerns about election integrity, the Help America Vote Act (HAVA)1 was signed into law in 2002.
HAVA establishes a number of requirements for voting systems used in federal elections: