More On Sequoia's Legal Threats Against Ed Felten: The Intimidation Worked

from the freedom-to-threaten-lawsuits dept

Yesterday we covered the threats that e-voting firm Sequoia had sent to Ed Felten and to various officials in New Jersey. Unfortunately, it appears those threats worked: the election officials have backed down and agreed not to send Felten the machine to test. has more details on both the reason for the test and Sequoia’s response to the whole mess. The reason? Shockingly enough, Sequoia’s e-voting machines malfunctioned during the primary in a way that should scare you: it gave two different vote counts. You would think that’s a pretty good reason for allowing a qualified, well-respected researcher like Felten to check out the machines. No such luck. Sequoia has tried to explain it away as a bug, but that doesn’t explain why the machines shouldn’t be tested by a third party.

Sequoia’s response to that question is disingenuous, claiming that the company “supports third party reviews and testing of its election equipment.” If that’s so, then why not Ed Felten? Well, because Sequoia says that the machines have already been through a “rigorous” independent review from an accredited Voting System Test Labs. Ah? Would that be one of the accredited Voting System Test Labs that was barred from further testing for not having proper controls in place and having no evidence that tests were actually conducted? Most of those tests have very limited real-world applicability — which is what Felten is good at testing. Sequoia also lists out some independent tests in other states that the company was forced into accepting, as if it willingly took part in them. Yet, what the company doesn’t explain is what it’s so scared of in having Felten test its machine. If the company is confident in the machines, then where’s the problem? As a last resort, Sequoia appeals to the fact that such a test would break a licensing agreement, noting that “Licensing agreements are standard practice in the technology industry.” That’s clearly a cop out. While it may be legally correct, it’s no reason not to let a researcher try to figure out if there are any problems with its machines. This isn’t some random technology here. This is the technology we’re trusting with providing a free and fair election. Sequoia should be ashamed of pulling out legal threats and weak excuses.

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Companies: sequoia

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Comments on “More On Sequoia's Legal Threats Against Ed Felten: The Intimidation Worked”

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Chris Maresca (user link) says:

Why is it so hard ...

… for people to write what is, in computer terms, a very, very simple task (e.g. adding up clicks)?

Never mind the fact that the software should really be open source (like Australia*, Brazil and India), even if it runs on proprietary hardware.


* source here:

Joe Smith says:

ship the crap back

Let me get this straight – a vendor selling a really important product is telling the customer that the customer is not entitled to independently test and verify the reliability of the product? If I tried that with my customers I would be out of business in a heart beat.

Why is anyone doing business with these folks?

sonofdot says:

Why not put out an RFP?

The government bureaucrats in charge of this can make this very simple: Put out an RFP, and stipulate in the requirements the machines must pass testing by an independent third party, chosen by the RFP issuer. Either the companies responding to the RFP submit the machines, or no deal. End of problem.

The alternative is to tell the companies to go pound sand. Should we allow our government to be bullied and our voting process dictated by the dumbasses who can’t build a voting machine that works?

Paul Clark (profile) says:

Time to Turn to the Courts?

Isn’t it time that someone filed a class action lawsuit against the company? The class would all of the registered voters in the regions where these machines were deployed? If they are selling a faulty or defective product, then the customers (the voters) should be entitled to compensation.

Do this once and see how many of the companies decide another business is a better idea.

Dave W. says:

Rigorous Independent Review

This is the best response Sequoia can manage? Given recent media scrutiny and the negative headlines surrounding e-voting, surely Sequoia has a full time PR staff to spin things like this. And “supports third party reviews and testing of its election equipment” is the best they can do?

The question everyone should be asking is if Sequoia’s machines “have already been through a “rigorous” independent review from an accredited Voting System Test Labs” then how did they manage to miss such a blatant error?

Joe Smith says:

Re: @ Lyons

“when you realize most of these companies also make the ATM machines you trust with all your money, your hair should really turn white.”

Do you think that the supplier would threaten to sue a bank who said they wanted an independent audit / review of the reliability of an ATM? If they were supplying ATMs that could not keep track of the money to the last penny they would be out of business.

BlowURmindBowel says:

Rethuglican, my new fav pseudo-word...

Well its because Sequoia can’t even hide their rigging code well enough, and they don’t want to get exterminated with extreme prejudice by Big Brother when the whole scheme gets found out by Felten if/when he is actually able to get is hands on one of these machines…


Killer_Tofu (profile) says:


Good to know how much our votes are really worth to the government.
Absolutely nothing, because they do not care enough to force these companies into opening up their code and machines.

So, who wants to start an actual e-voting machine company with me.
We can be open source and box with our machines and let 3rd parties test them, and make them bug free, since 1+1+1+1 into an array with say, 5 elements per section, is apparently too much for their programmers to be able to comprehend.
We should be able to put all current e-voting machine vendors out of business in say .. 1 to 2 years.

KD says:

Looking at the wrong problem

From my point of view, you all are looking at the wrong problem. I think the problem is that our local governments are abdicating their responsibility for running elections.

I see no reason why anyone, anywhere needs voting machines of any kind. Count the damn ballots the old-fashioned way. There is no reason we can’t wait several hours or a day or even a couple of days to learn the results of our elections. Doing the count the old-fashioned way is by far the safest way to run an election. We have years of experience with how people try to cheat under those conditions, and how to combat those attempts. Why should we discard all that experience and expose ourselves to new ways of cheating that we haven’t developed ways to deal with? I see absolutely no reason to do that. The machines aren’t solving any problem I can see, and they are causing a bunch of new problems we didn’t have before.

I refuse to entrust my vote to the unreliable machines. In my state, one can get an absentee ballot even if you aren’t going to be gone. I do so, and encourage everyone to do so. If we can get enough people doing that, then the machines won’t matter because they won’t handle enough of the votes to affect the results.

The solution to these problems is to outlaw voting machines.

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