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. News.com 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.

Filed Under: e-voting, ed felten, intimidation, new jersey
Companies: sequoia


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  1. identicon
    KD, 19 Mar 2008 @ 4:31pm

    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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