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SysTest logoAugust 15, 2008

SysTest Labs, one of four federal testing labs responsible for certifying our nation’s voting systems, is under investigation for failing to document or validate its test methods. Accused of using unqualified personnel, it also may be colluding with vendors to “ensure certification.”  SysTest denies any wrongdoing.

SysTest Labs, LLC, one of four federal testing labs responsible for certifying our nation’s voting systems, is under investigation for failing to document or validate its test methods.  The lab is also accused of using unqualified personnel to run these highly technical tests.  Emails from the lab indicate possible collusion with voting system vendor, ES&S, whereby SysTest’s “test approach takes into consideration” actions that will “ensure certification” of the M650 and M100 optical scanners.   

An August 8, 2008 letter from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) and SysTest details these issues:

“In addition, there were instances discovered where testing was performed by personnel who had not been qualified to perform the testing.”

The NIST letter goes on to report another, more serious violation:

“[A]nother issue has surfaced which may be interpreted as improper behavior between an independent testing laboratory and its client.  This issue is documented in a letter from the EAC … dated July 25, 2008.  The letter cites a situation … where SysTest may be ‘allowing and inviting manufacturers to play an inappropriate role in the development of test plans‘ which “would be a significant violation” of ISO and NIST rules, “and as such could affect SysTest’s accreditation status.” (emphasis added)

On July 16th, Ron Thomas of SysTest sent an email to Election Systems & Software (ES&S) regarding the ongoing certification of two of ES&S’ optical scan voting systems being used in Ohio, by setting the goals of speedy tests and ensuring certification.  On July 25th, the EAC took exception to Thomas’ email that:

“… contains language in which SysTest sets a goal ‘to ensure certification’ of [a] manufacturer’s system.  This statement may be read as an inappropriate promise of certification.” 

The EAC then warned SysTest that EAC-accredited voting system test labs “are responsible for the independent testing of a voting system to the appropriate standards and should not have as the end goal the certification of the voting system.”  NIST and the EAC put SysTest on administrative oversight.  These violations, if true, could result in revocation of SysTest’s accreditation as a federal voting system certification lab.

On August 11th, SysTest denied all allegations in an email to the New York State Board of Elections.

Adding to SysTest’s woes with NIST and the EAC, SysTest approved Sequoia/Dominion’s ImageCast ballot marking device for use in New York, which sports a convenient slotted hole that enables ballot stuffing into the locked ballot box.  We provide an exclusive video here.   

Whether it loses accreditation or not, how can voters rely on SysTest’s competency in testing voting systems, when it failed to catch such an obvious defect as a huge ballot stuffing hole on top of the Sequoia/Dominion machine? 


1 The Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002 directs NIST to support the EAC in its accreditation of laboratories qualified to conduct the testing, certification, decertification, and recertification of voting systems as provided under the act.  NIST relies on assessments conducted by its National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program (NVLAP) as a basis for determining the competence of candidate laboratories to test voting system hardware and software for conformance to federal standards.  (From NIST Q&A



NIST recommended SysTest Labs (of Denver, Colorado) to the EAC on January 18, 2007.