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Were Wisconsin, Michigan & Pennsylvania Election Results ‘Rigged’ or Hacked?

(Getty

(Getty

A group of prominent professors and lawyers wants Hillary Clinton to ask for a recount and forensic examination of votes in three battleground states – Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania – because they believe they’ve found suspicious patterns that could mean the election results were hacked or rigged.

However, other leading data experts have thrown cold water on the theory, saying it’s highly unlikely.

On November 23, Green Party candidate Jill Stein announced that she was seeking a recount in the three states:

Stein raised more than $2.5 million in one day through a crowdfunding website to fund recounts.

The rumbling about the results from the three states gained more prominence November 22 when New York Magazine ran an extensive article entitled, “Experts Urge Clinton Campaign to Challenge Election Results in 3 Swing State.”

The article reported that a group of data experts and lawyers “which includes voting-rights attorney John Bonifaz and J. Alex Halderman, the director of the University of Michigan Center for Computer Security and Society, believes they’ve found persuasive evidence that results in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania may have been manipulated or hacked.” Halderman then wrote a detailed explanation of his theories on Medium.com.

The group’s central theory is that a foreign government could have hacked the election because of what they argue are suspicious patterns in voting results in Wisconsin (which other data experts say can be explained away by education and race variables). The Clinton campaign and various intelligence agencies have accused the Russian government of staging a series of hacks that hurt Clinton’s chances during the campaign, including the hacking of the emails of her campaign chairman, John Podesta.

The New York Magazine article, by Gabriel Sherman, says the group had a conference call with Clinton Campaign Chairman Podesta and the campaign’s top lawyer Marc Elias.

Let’s break this down step-by-step. Here’s what you need to know:


The Margins of Victory in the Three States

electoral map

What the electoral map would look like if Clinton had won Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. (270toWin)

The margins of victory were exceptionally close in all three states, although closest in Michigan. In fact, the Michigan results were close enough that the Associated Press still has not called that state for Trump. In addition, notes Fox 6 Milwaukee, some electors have vowed to become “faithless electors” and not cast their vote for Trump when the Electoral College meets in December.

Trump’s lead in Michigan: 12,882 votes. His lead in Wisconsin: 24,081. His lead in Pennsylvania: 68,814. The leads have fluctuated slightly as votes are canvassed. Trump leads in the Electoral College 306 to 232 if you count Michigan.

Both Michigan and Wisconsin allow campaigns to request recounts after canvassing is complete. The Wisconsin Election Commission has a detailed manual spelling out the procedures. There is no automatic recount, but candidates can request recounts. In Michigan, an automatic recount is triggered only if the margin is under 2,000 votes. However, a candidate can still request a recount.

The deadlines to ask for recounts in all three states are looming. Halderman says the deadlines are Friday, November 25 in Wisconsin, Monday, November 28 in Pennsylvania, and the following Wednesday in Michigan.

Altogether, the three states amount to enough electoral votes that, had Clinton won them, she would win the Electoral College (she is already way ahead in the popular vote). See the above electoral map for how it would look if those three states flipped into Clinton’s column. She’d need all three, though.


What the Data Group is Alleging

wisconsin

In Wisconsin, says New York Magazine, the group argues that their analysis shows “Clinton received 7 percent fewer votes in counties that relied on electronic-voting machines compared with counties that used optical scanners and paper ballots.” They argue this might have cost her 30,000 votes.

According to The New York Daily News, “Wisconsin’s metropolitan areas, where Clinton did well, use paper ballots. Rural Wisconsin, where she did not, relies on electronic machines.” The newspaper says the group has no proof of hacking. And, of course, it’s possible that Clinton just did not appeal to rural voters.

The group has not presented similar data on Michigan and Pennsylvania, but the results in those states are close.

Professor Halderman wrote a detailed explanation of his views on Medium.com after the New York Magazine article detailing his concerns about the election results. In it, he details how a “foreign government” could hack an election. He wrote that hackers might “spread malware into voting machines in some of these states, rigging the machines to shift a few percent of the vote to favor their desired candidate.”

He is calling for a forensic examination of paper ballots and voting machines in the three states. The professor writes that states rarely check paper ballots against electronic voting machine tabulations and that the machines are largely insecure. His article contains a map in which he says that counties in Wisconsin and Michigan use optical scan ballots that could be checked against the results, and some counties in Pennsylvania do.

Ballotpedia has an explanation of the ballots used in each state.


What Other Experts Say

FiveThirtyEight forecasts, FiveThirtyEight Trump, FiveThirtyEight elections

Analyst Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight. (Getty)

A series of other prominent election data analysts have said the group’s claims don’t make sense (although some of them predicted Clinton would win the election in the first place).

One of those voices is Nate Silver, of the blog FiveThirtyEight, which analyzes elections using statistics. Silver has been repeatedly posting about the claims on Twitter. He pointed out that Michigan uses paper ballots (you can see Wisconsin’s ballots here):

Michigan’s secretary of state website explains, “All voters in Michigan use optical scan ballots. Optical scan voting requires voters to either darken an oval or connect the head and tail of an arrow next to each of their choices on their ballot. Completed ballots are fed into a tabulator, which scans and records the votes.”

Silver controlled for demographics in Wisconsin and found that the difference in voting disappears. He believes that race and education levels determined whether an area would shift toward Trump.

He also didn’t find anything awry in Pennsylvania when you control for demographics.

Silver concluded:

He wasn’t the only person casting doubts on the theories. Nate Cohn of the New York Times’ UpShot page and the Cook Political Report’s Dave Wasserman were skeptical too.

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11 comments

  1. Michigan is a paper ballot state. No online voting allowed. How do you hack a paper ballot? As for the state of Pennsylvania, they have stated pubicly that their voting machines are so old they can’t be connected to the internet. This is a real reach folks.

  2. Hillary rigged those states and still lost, now she’s simply wondering why she lost. How about “voters hate you?”

  3. Donald Trump is citing unsubstantiated urban myths and a contested academic study to paint a false narrative about rampant voter fraud in the U.S. and the likelihood of a “rigged” election.
    Trump claimed “people that have died 10 years ago are still voting,” citing a report that found 1.8 million deceased people remain on voter registration rolls. But the report did not find evidence of wrongdoing, and numerous studies have found such voter fraud is virtually nonexistent.
    Trump claimed there is a massive problem with “illegal immigrants [who] are voting,” citing research by Old Dominion professors who say noncitizen voters may have benefited Democrats in 2008. But a Harvard professor who manages the data used in the Old Dominion study said the data was misused and the study’s conclusions are wrong.
    Finally, Trump broadly claimed that “voter fraud is very, very common,” and he has called for poll watchers to look for people impersonating voters or voting numerous times. However, numerous academic studies and government inquiries have found in-person voter fraud to be rare.
    For weeks, Trump has been warning about rigged elections. He urged his supporters in Ambridge, Pennsylvania, on Oct. 10 to monitor polls and “watch other communities, because we don’t want this election stolen from us.” Now he is all right with the process.

    • How do you account for the case of 83 ballots being found, addressed to a single apartment in California, that had 83 different names??? That’s just one of many cases. It is amazing the hypocrisy of people who feel that their candidate couldn’t have cheated and condemn those for stating they may have yet they fully support their candidate when challenging someone else!!!!!!!!!!!! If the election could have been bought, the Clinton’s Super PAC’s including Soros would have done it as they had a huge monetary advantage! Ponder that and discard in a typical liberal manner as you will never entertain the facts!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Halderman/Stein should not be allowed to use an election as a guinea pig to test their theories.

    They need to provide evidence that an irregularity has occurred, and therefore request a recount. Instead they have provided conjecture surrounding a set of hypothetical situations and are requesting a recount to determine whether an irregularity has occurred.

    Stein’s request is a farce.

  5. I’m sure that the “Trumpsters” would have taken the same attitude. After all; Donald did say that the Election was RIGGED! Just not which way! why is it that we have two (2) Republicans elected by a MINORITY OF VOTES? 2 Million plus this time. Let them recount!