NIST Workshop of a Common Data Format for Electronic Voting Systems
October 29 - 30, 2009
National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD
The goal of this two-day workshop is to identify and agree upon a set of requirements for a common data format for voting systems. While there have been many calls for a common data format for voting systems, there is little consensus on the requirements for this format or what it is to accomplish. Possible goals for a common data format include interoperability of different equipment, auditability, transparency, publishing (communication with consumers of election data, such as media outlets), integration between polls and registration, transition to electronic record-keeping, or the ability just to "get the data out" by any means possible. Stakeholders include manufacturers, election officials, the EAC, consumers of election data, voters, organizations with existing data formats (including OASIS and the Voting Information Project), academics, and others with related work.
Different goals have different consequences for the requirements, the scope of work, and the testing that must follow. For example:
- Human-readable versus machine readable-human-readability matters for transparency and auditing, whereas integration of equipment indicates use of an existing data exchange syntax that is optimized for machine-reading rather than human-reading.
- Flexible and extensible versus uniform and complete-interoperability is helped by a standard data format only if the format is used in the same way by everyone; other goals may accommodate a more flexible and extensible format.
- Secure versus convenient-securing the records to make them valid for auditing could also hamper intermediate processing that might be needed to integrate disparate pieces of equipment.
- Format versus content-to "get the data out" it is more important to specify the data to be provided, the points in the process at which it is to be provided, and the mechanism for export than the format of the data
- Publishing results involves only the reporting phase of the election and should not include such information as individual ballot images.
- Interoperability might only be needed at certain points in the system architecture.
- Registration may or may not be within scope.
- Low-level event log data may only be useful for auditing.
- If the data format is to be used for auditing, usability testing with auditors is indicated.
- If the goal is interoperability, interoperability testing is different from conformity assessment
This workshop aims to (a) begin a discussion on the above issues among experts in the election community who would work with a common data format, including election officials, auditors, manufacturers, testing labs, and others involved in election analysis, and (b) arrive at basic scoping for what a common data format is to accomplish and the basic requirements for what it must do. Discussions during the workshop will address the following:
- The current state and uses of common data formats;
- "The customer"-existing and potential;
- The customer's goals-what data needs to be encoded in the format and how will it be used;
- Next steps towards a common data format;
- Willing contributors.
Workshop attendees are encouraged to submit papers in advance of the workshop. Two types of submissions are sought:
1. Position papers on requirements for common data formats (2-5 pages). Topics of interest include (but are not limited to) the following:
- What problems or needs should be addressed by a common data format for any particular application, e.g., auditing, transparency of election results, device interoperability, or testing;
- What data should be represented by a common data format;
- When in the voting process should the data be available.
2. Papers describing current uses of data formats in U.S. elections and experiences with using the formats (2-10 pages), including (but not limited to) the following:
- What problems were being addressed by use of the format;
- Whether customization was necessary;
- Success of the effort;
- Lessons learned.
Authors may submit papers that have been presented or published elsewhere. Accepted papers and presentation slides will be made available on the web as well as in printed form to workshop attendees. Manuscripts will not be formally published.
Manuscripts should be sent to voting[at]nist[dot]gov by September 1, 2009. Decisions will be made by September 9, 2009.
Registration: Registration is required for this workshop. To register, please contact Karen Yavetz, via email at karen.yavetz[at]nist[dot]gov, by October 15, 2009. Please provide:
- your full name
- the organization or agency with which you are affiliated, and
- if you are a United States citizen
This information will be needed in order to provide workshop attendees with their NIST visitor badges.
For technical questions regarding the Common Data Format workshop, please contact John Wack at john.wack[at]nist[dot]gov.