Re: [NoElectronicBallots] Diebold, ES&S and Sequoia sued for infringing on Avante's VVPAT and optical scan patents

From: Jim March <jmarch_at_prodigy_dot_net>
Date: Wed Jul 12 2006 - 23:15:24 CDT

THIS is simply delicious. The original press release on the lawsuit
follows my comment here. The title above gives you the gist of what's
going on.

While I haven't seen the details of Avante's patent, I have seen the
device and paper output. It is genuinely worlds ahead of the "double
toilet paper roll" system first used by Sequoia and now copied by
Diebold's TSx with add-on "VVPAT".

In brief, Avante's system is a DRE that prints a paper trail to a small
printer with paper coming off of a roll. Voters get to "look but not
touch" and confirm the accuracy of the paper before doing the final vote
cast. Sounds similar to the others, but here's how theirs is better:

* Instead of a "take-up spool", once the voter is satisfied with the
vote it advances to a "snipper" mechanism, gets cut off and drops to the
bottom of a sizeable bucket. This doesn't completely randomize the
order of the vote but it probably does so enough to ensure voter
privacy. The sequential order of the vote preserved on the copycat
systems of the established vendors preserve the EXACT sequence of votes.

* If the voter cancels that paper vote, it goes physically into a
different place in the machine AND gets marked "spoiled". So all
pollworkers need to do when emptying the thing is confirm that the "bad
box" contains nothing but marked-bad votes, seal them in an envelope and
segregate them from the "good votes". This is in STARK contrast to the
Sequoia/Diebold/etc (I haven't seen the ES&S systems but probably the
same) "take up spools" that take up the BAD ballots as well as the good
and whoever is recounting has to check the legal status of EACH before
counting and if they forget...

* Avante cryptographically "screws up" the text of the VVPAT output in a
fashion that can be checked later. In other words, a few dots of the
dot-matrix printout are either missing or placed one dot position off.
This doesn't harm human readability any, but does offer a way to ensure
the validity of the paper ballot in question. Print a "fake" on another
machine (Avante or otherwise) and the dot pattern "mistakes" won't match
that particular ballot.

* Avante burns the electronic record of the vote (with the cryptographic
"missing dot patterns" for each) onto CD-ROM at the end of the day,
where they cannot be modified by any idiot with a PC the way PCMCIA
"electronic ballot boxes" can. The CD can be copied of course but if
you load 10 copies of the same disk into their central tabulator it will
only record it once.

* Avante's "voter ID card" is not very "smart" and cannot act as the
payload carrier for a virus/trojan/malware/etc. It's just a 16 digit
number, eight digits identifying precinct, eight identifying the voter
(for that election). If copied and used to vote multiple times, only
the last vote cast with that card will be electronically counted good
(but multiple copies of the paper will be at different precincts of
course...). The card is at least somewhat difficult to copy, being
based on Avante's parent company's proprietary RFID system.

The Avante system was up and running in 2002, long before these other
vendors were forced into adding "VVPAT" to DREs (regardless of how
crippled these "VVPATs" were from Avante's original concept). So as
long as the patent was well crafted, oh man, Avante has GOT these clowns.

NOTE: I have not done an independent security analysis of the Avante
system. I have briefly kicked the tires on one and read the basic
specs. It's my personal belief that Avante tried to build a good
machine. I cannot confirm that they succeeded. They have no obvious
signs of political bias or criminal pasts. Look, Avante started out
making gear for the semiconductor business. Eventually they ended up
with their own system of ID cards for things like security door access,
tracking trade show attendees and the like with respectable security.
Once HAVA broke (or was clearly going to) they jumped into voting to
make money off their ID cards. They're a bunch of geeks who set out to
make some money, nothing wrong with that :).

I strongly suspect that Avante has more ethics than Diebold, ES&S,
Sequoia or Hart. Combined. :) This lawsuit will confirm whether or
not I'm right.

That said: I cannot endorse them at this time because they're only
"certified" by the same ITA lunatics who did the rest of the machines.
I strongly recommend Avante consider opening up their source code to
public review.

Jim March

Jo Anne wrote:

> Diebold, ES&S and Sequoia sued for infringing on Avante's VVPAT and
> optical scan patents
>
>
>
> "AVANTE's VVPAT and optical scanning (which includes automatic ballot
> marking) patents allow voters to verify that their electronically-cast
> ballots are being accurately counted while also allowing for
> auditability between the paper record and the electronic record.
>
> . . . .
>
> "AVANTE [states,] "Local governments, acting in good faith in
> determining which electronic voting system would serve the needs of
> their districts, also have every reason to be upset at these companies.
>
> "We believe the evidence will show that these companies sold
> infringing equipment to public officials, and that they did so
> consciously, with knowledge of AVANTE's intellectual property," added
> Mr. Lesko.
>
>SimmonsCooper is seeking damages and an injunction on behalf of AVANTE."
>
>http://biz.yahoo.com/prnews/060712/clw527.html?.v=33&printer=1 <http://biz.yahoo.com/prnews/060712/clw527.html?.v=33&printer=1>
>
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Received on Mon Jul 31 23:17:04 2006

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