What are they?
“Equipment (including hardware, firmware, and software), materials, and documentation used to partially automate the process of checking in voters, assigning voters the correct ballot style, and marking off voters who have been issued a ballot.”
Simply defined, EPBs are laptops, tablets, or kiosks designed to replace paper poll lists, that access digital voter registration records for their representative jurisdiction. In contrast to a voting system, EPBs’ primary users are election workers, and do not collect or tabulate cast vote records. EPBs were initially designed in an effort to automate the election process and alleviate the burden on election workers, who update voter registration records and evaluate a voter’s eligibility to participate in the election process. In recent years, these systems have evolved to serve a variety of administrative functions before, during, and after an election. EPBs can now be used to capture voter signatures, identify a voter’s ballot style or preferred language, detect ineligible voters, and extract data reports.
Where Are They Used?
Throughout the past 15 years, the United States has witnessed a steady increase in the use of EPBs during elections. The EAC first began tracking EPB usage in 2008, when only 23 states and territories reported using EPBs. The most recent data from the 2022 Election Administration and Voting Survey (EAVS) findings revealed that 40 states and territories currently utilize EPBs, with 19 reporting the usage of EPBs in all jurisdictions and 21 only utilizing EPBs in some jurisdictions. This is a 60% increase in comparison to the 2008 EAVS findings.
EAC’s Voluntary Electronic Poll Book Pilot Program
On October 25, 2023, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission’s Election Supporting Technology Evaluation Program (ESTEP) released findings from the Electronic Poll Book Pilot Program, of which has been summarized below.
Background. Under the authority of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), the EAC developed ESTEP, which was formally established by hiring its first director in 2022. ESTEP is responsible for the creation of draft standards and administration of pilot programs for technologies not covered under the Voluntary Voting System Guidelines (VVSG). In response to the increasing demands from the public and various stakeholders, ESTEP piloted the nation’s first voluntary program for testing of EPBs on the federal level, to determine if federal certification is a viable solution in the foreseeable future of EPB usage during elections in the United States.
Purpose. This Pilot Program was designed to create testable guidelines and materials for standardizing the security, accessibility, and usability of electronic poll books (EPBs) in the United States. Ultimately, the main objective of this pilot program is to create cross-jurisdictional standards that ensure EPBs provide a positive user experience, can defend against network-related security threats, minimize human errors, and make the voting process accessible and efficient for all eligible voters.
Voluntary Participants. To locate participants for this Pilot Program, inquiries for voluntary participation were distributed to representatives from EPB manufacturers utilized throughout the United States and all testing laboratories accredited by the EAC in January 2023. In response, two Voting System Test Laboratories (VSTLs), five commercial manufacturers, and two in-house manufacturers entered into agreements for pilot participation between January 31, 2023, and June 14, 2023. Voluntary pilot participants, including their submitted systems, development methods, and designated VSTLs are demonstrated in the table below.
|E-Poll Book System (Name/Version)||VSTL||System Manufacturer||Participation Agreement Signed||Testing Completed|
|ExpressPoll 126.96.36.199||Pro V&V||Election Systems & Software, Inc. (ES&S)||2023-01-31||2023-04-26|
|Poll Pad 3.4||SLI Compliance||KNOWiNK||2023-02-01||2023-06-09|
|Precinct Central 5.1.9||Pro V&V||Tenex Software Solutions||2023-01-31||2023-06-13|
|On-Site Voter Registration Database (OVRD) 2.9.120||Pro V&V||North Carolina State Board of Elections (NCSBE)||2023-04-25||2023-07-06|
|VoteSafe 1.3.77||Pro V&V||VOTEC Corporation||2023-04-13||2023-07-10|
|AskED E-Poll Book 3.4||SLI Compliance||Robis Elections Inc.||2023-01-31||2023-07-19|
|SiteBook 3.4||SLI Compliance||Maricopa County, Arizona Elections Department||2023-06-14||2023-09-08|
Major Findings. The EAC conducted an evaluation of all seven participant scores in all categories of the VEPBR v0.9, including sub-requirements, for a total analysis of over 100 requirements. In the submitted test reports, VSTLs provided justification to each manufacturer for failed categories during system testing. The following high-level assumptions can be concluded as a result of pilot findings:
- While there was not a single requirement in which all piloted systems failed, some requirements, such as those with a documentation element, may be considered vague, leaving them subject to varying interpretations by VSTLs during evaluation.
- Manufacturers that service clients in multiple states and territories have more experience with EPB certification requirements and protocols, making them more inclined to achieve passing scores for requirements on the federal level.
- The majority of EPBs sold for use in the United States are not currently designed to meet the EAC’s evaluation requirements but will be able to meet the majority of requirements upon documentation revision.
- Due to variations between in-house and commercially manufactured systems, cost considerations, and the time required to implement major changes, the EAC should consider the applicability of current draft requirements for possible certification.
Recommendations. Based on this Pilot Program’s results and feedback received, ESTEP has formulated a set of recommendations for consideration by the EAC Commissioners. These recommendations may demand revision upon further consideration by EAC Commissioners, election administrators, and members of the public.
- There is a need to enhance data collection methods in the EAC’s Election Administration and Voting Survey (EAVS) to include further research questions pertaining to EPBs and other election-supporting technologies.
- Prior to the development of a formal program for certification, it is imperative that the EAC examine the applicability of existing requirements at the state and local level for possible revisions to federal requirements.
- Version 0.9 of the Voluntary Electronic Poll Book Requirements should be revised to include baseline functionality requirements and to add clarification to requirements that weren’t easily achievable during this Pilot Program.
- A Manual, outlining administrative processes and guidelines for participation in the ESTEP, should be established.
- An agile program for testing and certifying EPBs at the federal level, should be implemented.
- Once the EAC Commissioners have discussed and implemented all preceding recommendations, ESTEP should move forward with piloting the next election-supporting technology.
Pilot Artifacts and Other Resources. Additional information and the full text of the Electronic Poll Book Pilot Program Report can be found below.
- 2023 U.S. EAC Voluntary Electronic Poll Book Pilot Program Report
- Voluntary Electronic Poll Book Requirements (Version 0.9)
- A Clearinghouse Report on the Use, Functions, and Regulations of Electronic Poll Books
- State Certification Requirements for Electronic Poll Books
- ESTEP and the E-Poll Book Pilot Program Video
Questions? Please Contact:
Election Supporting Technology Evaluation Program