ISO has confirmed the “technical specification” standard ISO/TS 54001 on “Quality management systems — Particular requirements for the application of ISO 9001:2015 for electoral organizations at all levels of government.” This standard was developed by ISO Technical Committee 176.

This standard aims to provide guidance on how to apply the quality management system standard ISO 9001 within national or regional election bodies, in order to ensure “free and fair elections.” Ironically, the nations pushing the standard originally were largely ones in which free and fair elections are disputed, including some authoritarian South American countries and Russia.

Previously, ISO had published ISO/TS 17582 in 2014 covering this topic. This was then replaced by ISO/TS 54001 in 2019. Normally, ISO standards undergo a mandatory review for confirmation or amendment every five years, but “TS” documents — technical specifications — have a reduced shelf life. ISO dictates they must undergo an early review to either withdraw them entirely or transition them to a full international standard (IS).

Therefore, ISO held a round of international voting to reaffirm ISO/TS 54001, with the voting having been concluded a few weeks ago. The result was overwhelmingly to confirm the standard as-is, with only a minority of nations voting to withdraw or amend it.

An interesting note was found in the voting results, entered by Canada’s official representative. That comment said, “If ISO rules allow to confirm [TS 54001] as an IS, then this would be also acceptable and a revision could be instigated after an eventual revision of ISO 9001:2015.” This reveals — again — that behind the scenes ISO is pushing ahead with a revision of ISO 9001:2015, despite multiple world votes to confirm the standard as-is. TC 176 leadership had falsely insisted that no such plans were underway, but internal documents continue to leak showing that TC 176 had been working on revising the text long before the international votes were even held.

The latest voting also shows that Russia has stood down from working on this standard, as it maneuvers to create its own portfolio of “regional standards” to compete directly with ISO.

Only a tiny handful of countries have adopted TS 54001 for their use in elections, suggesting that while nations are signaling support for the standard in order to boast about fair elections, in a practical sense the standard remains unused.

Hilariously, dictatorial nations such as Cuba, Ethiopia, and China have claimed to be using the standard. This has led critics to suggest that ISO/TS 54001 is simply being used to prop up dictatorial regimes that deny free elections, in direct contradiction to its intended use.

ISO/TS 54001 is currently for sale on the ISO website.

About Christopher Paris

Christopher Paris is the founder and VP Operations of Oxebridge. He has over 30 years' experience implementing ISO 9001 and AS9100 systems, and is a vocal advocate for the development and use of standards from the point of view of actual users. He is the author of Surviving ISO 9001 and Surviving AS9100. He reviews wines for the irreverent wine blog, Winepisser.

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