In the Shadow of the Sequoia

or how I learned to love the black box

Math is hard
Math is hard

Sequoia Voting Systems is one of Diebold's competitors -- except that Diebold is now named Premier Election Solutions because nobody wants to walk into a voting booth and see the word "Diebold."

One of the areas in which they compete, is selling mysterious devices. We're not sure what these devices do, or how they do it, but we use them to count votes.

The other way they compete, is having their lawyers use variations on the Streisand effect to see who can draw the most attention to their shadiness. In a brilliant move that will leave Premier's PR team green with envy, Sequoia has pulled into the lead: they sent a threatening letter to Princeton CS professor Ed Felten and the state of New Jersey. The issue? New Jersey election officials had some problems with Sequoia machines on Super Tuesday, so they were planning to send a Sequoia voting machine to Felten for an independent audit. It's hard to program a computer to count button presses, but maybe a computer science professor can figure out the subtleties that eluded Sequoia.

The threat to New Jersey: "it violates their established Sequoia licensing Agreement for use of the voting system. Sequoia has also retained counsel to stop any infringement of our intellectual properties, including any non-compliant analysis." Apparently the machines were licensed to New Jersey rather than sold, and checking to see if they work, isn't one of the allowed uses.

The threat to Felten: Sequoia will "take appropriate steps to protect against any publication of Sequoia software, its behavior, reports regarding same." If he does get ahold of one of the machines and sees something wrong with it, he better not talk about it.

The result? New Jersey backed down. The machines will not be inspected. Take that, all you paranoid malcontents who complain about government trampling our [intellectual property] rights!