OASIS, the international open standards consortium, this week announced that its members have approved the Election Markup Language (EML) version 5.0 as an OASIS Standard, a status that signifies the highest level of ratification. Developed through an open process by the OASIS Election and Voter Services Technical Committee, EML supports information exchange through the complete election process, including candidate nomination, voter registration and authentication, ballot information, vote casting and confirmation, tabulation, auditing and more.

"In the election industry today, there are many different election systems and a wide variety of components used for many different functions, so the need for easier integration of different system components has never been greater," said Dr. Ron Rivest, professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). "EML is an example of the kind of consensus-based, publicly available common format that enables the exchange of electronic records between different components in election systems."

EML is flexible enough to be used for elections and referenda that are fully e-enabled as well as ones that are primarily paper-based. Designed to accommodate many languages, dialects, and vocabularies, the standard also supports various voting regimes. It can be used in both the private and public sectors.

"The beauty of EML is that it supports the election process without requiring any changes to traditional methods of conducting elections," said John Borras, chair of the OASIS Election and Voter Services Technical Committee. "EML lets election officials around the world build on existing infrastructure investments to evolve their systems as new technologies and voting practices emerge."

The value of EML is recognized by many public-sector agencies. The Council of Europe has issued a recommendation that its 46 member states use open standards such as EML for e-election and e-referendum applications. All U.K. electoral modernization pilots have used EML, as a means to evaluate the standard's effectiveness in real elections; feedback from these pilots was incorporated into version 5.0. California intends to use EML to provide election results in its upcoming presidential primary, according to a release from OASIS.

EML was developed under the Royalty-Free on Limited Terms Mode of the OASIS Intellectual Property Rights Policy. EDS, IBM and OPT2VOTE all verified successful use of EML 5.0, in accordance with eligibility requirements for all OASIS Standards.

The OASIS Election and Voter Services Technical Committee continues work on developing profiles and implementation guidelines for use of EML 5.0. Participation in the Committee remains open to all government agencies, companies, non-profit groups, academic institutions, and individuals. Archives of the work are accessible to both members and non-members, and OASIS offers a mechanism for public comment.

The Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) is a not-for-profit consortium that drives the development, convergence and adoption of open standards for the global information society. The consortium produces Web services standards along with standards for security, e-business and standardization efforts in the public sector and for application-specific markets.