With so much discussion and debate about federal, state, and local voting laws in America, the certification of voting machines and electronic poll books has become even more important.

Ball State University plays a key role in this process in Indiana, as its Bowen Center Voting System Technical Oversight Program (VSTOP) approves voting machines in all 92 Indiana counties. This certification complies with federal and state laws, and checks for security, accuracy, and functionality.

“Technology has allowed people across the country and Indiana to vote easier and receive election returns faster than in the past,” said Chad Kinsella, Director of the Bowen Center. “However, with technology has come a need for greater security in the process of elections.”

Founded in 2008, VSTOP is a combination of political science, criminal justice, and computer science focuses. The project provides master’s level training in election administration for county personnel, oversees proficiency exams, and reviews independent testing laboratories. VSTOP also advises on cybersecurity, completes risk-limiting audits, and currently works with Colorado, Texas, and other states.

With so much on the line during each election, it remains vitally important that every vote be properly recorded and accurately counted.

“There’s a tremendous responsibility among all those who work in election administration to try to instill confidence in America’s elections as a central cornerstone of the democratic process,” said Dr. Bryan Byers, professor of Criminal Justice and Criminology and Co-Director of VSTOP.

Along with Dr. Byers, the project is directed by Dr. Jay Bagga, professor of Computer Sciences at Ball State. Providing essential research and support for the Indiana Election Commission, VSTOP helped pioneer fundamental, early legislation authorizing the certification and testing of electronic poll books. VSTOP is also creating a database of Indiana voting machines and reports for election equipment operation.

“The work they do is important and incredible, especially when election security has become such a huge buzzword,” Kinsella said. “VSTOP has been at the forefront of several model programs, and is a national model for how state universities can be an instrumental part of securing our right to vote.”

Indiana Secretary of State Holli Sullivan is impressed with VSTOP’s efforts.

“Indiana continues to be a national leader in election integrity thanks in part to our innovative partnership with VSTOP. Ball State’s independent certification provides voters, candidates and administrators with confidence in the security of our elections,” said Secretary Sullivan, who will visit Ball State and VSTOP on Monday, July 12, 2021.

VSTOP is currently at work on several initiatives.

Primarily, it is finalizing recommendation reports for voting system recertification to the Secretary of State, the Indiana Election Division, and the Indiana Election Commission before the 2021 deadline. Additionally, VSTOP is working with the Certificate in Election Administration, Technology and Security (CEATS) program — an election administration certification program — to allow election officials to become certified, at a graduate level, in various election administration subjects.

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