Re: Avante Releases White Papers on AVVPAT...

From: Alan Dechert <alan_at_openvotingconsortium_dot_org>
Date: Wed Jun 16 2004 - 11:01:15 CDT

> But the entire dual-use model remains open to question. ...
That's fair. A number of dual-use models are possible. Trials are needed
with the various models. Economic analysis is need for the various models.
With luck, we'll get funding to study these things.

> At this point, people on the voting-project list are talking
> about building a voting machine that's more cumbersome
> than many current models, involving a table with a cut-out
> and a wire cage underneath to hold things, and stuff like that. ...
As above, many dual-use models are possible. It's also possible that
several models will be viable and will be used where appropriate and not in
other places.

> Once you build that animal, the marginal cost of permanently
> integrating a computer into the machine will almost certainly
> be smaller than the cost, at each election, of pulling dual-use
> machines from the library, school, or senior center, testing
> them for safety and installing them in the voting machines.
We don't know that. I vote at a school. That school also has a computer
room with dozens of PCs. Securing the CPU in a way that I've described may
be useful for schools as well. In any case, 10 of those PCs could be
situated in such a way that minimal setup would be required to use the
computer room as a polling place.

> So, pending an economic analysis of that mess, we don't really know that
> the OVC software will run on commodity machines dedicated to elections
> or that it will run on commodity machines that are dual use.
The economic analysis could be a little messy. Economists will like that.
However, there is potential for good savings. You seem to think the
modified table I described would be a big problem but I don't think that's
true. I have a card table that we paid $12 for and it would not take much
to make it work as a voting station. The first PC we are likely to go in
with for certification has a smaller footprint than David Mertz's book on

An eval unit is on its way. I don't think it would cost much to secure this
unit under the table.

> There are also chain-of-custody issues. Dual-use machines are
> outside the election department's chain of custody while they are
> in their other use.
This is certainly an issue that needs to be considered. Again, different
dual-use models are possible and this issue is more significant for some
models than for others. For example, the hardware could be first used for
voting before being passed along to their intended main user in a government
office or a school (or even sold to businesses). The trailing edge model is
also possible. More than 25 million PCs are retired every year. More PCs
are retired every month than would be needed for all the voting booths in
the country. A vendor involved with asset management (e.g., ) could test and sanitize them (in
accordance with OVC procedures) and rent them to counties. How much would
they have to charge to make it worthwhile?

Also, it's not clear that keeping them under control of the election dept is
more conducive to fair elections than if they don't control them. i.e., if
an insider has the motivation, knowledge, etc to rig an election, s/he'd
have an easier time of it if s/he always has control of the machines.

> There are also product lifecycle issues. Dual-use machines are likely
> to be considered useless if they are not replaced or seriously upgraded
> every five years, ...
Again, this depends on the dual use model. For the trailing edge model, the
voting hardware would always be 4-5 years old. In this sense, they are
upgraded every year. Look at the PCs being bought today for large
organizations: those would be the PCs used in the voting booths in
2008--just after they've been retired and just before they get shipped out
to be used elsewhere.

> while dedicated-use voting machines are likely to last
> from 10 to 30 years. This means that software maintenance costs --
> dominated by adapting the software to the newest generation hardware,
> will go up for the dual-use environment.
> (If you're curious about product lifetime, ES&S says their iVotronic
> is designed for a 15-year life. ....
Did you say "designed for a 15-year life"? They may have to be adapted for
VVPAT. If you look at Shelley's standards, DREs start to look very
unattractive when fitted with the printer. Optical scan starts to look
really good by comparison. If OVC takes hold, DREs are likely to become
obsolete for a variety of reasons.

I think it's safe to say that technology and election code will be changing
significantly over the next five years and it will be tough for any system
currently in use to escape the recycle bin--even ones still working fine as

> My county uses Optech II mark-sense scanners, and two
> Optech I scanners, that are all about 20 years old.
> They work well, but are not up to current voting system standards, so
> must be replaced in the next two years. Well-built electronics lasts,
> and if it won't run the latest re-release of Quake, this is not problem
> for voting applications.)
That right, but things are changing rapidly now. It's possible that the
voting system in the U.S. will become stable and regular some years from now
and that voting technology will evolve slowly after that. We're in a time
of upheaval.

Alan D.
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Received on Wed Jun 30 23:17:17 2004

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