New Claims of Electronic Vote Rigging Used to Steal Election from Clinton: What to Think?

Quite a report from Gabriel Sherman:

Hillary Clinton is being urged by a group of prominent computer scientists and election lawyers to call for a recount in three swing states won by Donald Trump, New York has learned. The group, 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. The group is so far not speaking on the record about their findings and is focused on lobbying the Clinton team in private.

Last Thursday, the activists held a conference call with Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and campaign general counsel Marc Elias to make their case, according to a source briefed on the call. The academics presented findings showing that in Wisconsin, Clinton received 7 percent fewer votes in counties that relied on electronic-voting machines compared with counties that used optical scanners and paper ballots. Based on this statistical analysis, Clinton may have been denied as many as 30,000 votes; she lost Wisconsin by 27,000. While it’s important to note the group has not found proof of hacking or manipulation, they are arguing to the campaign that the suspicious pattern merits an independent review — especially in light of the fact that the Obama White House has accused the Russian government of hacking the Democratic National Committee.

Without public evidence on the record to examine it is hard to really evaluate this claim other than by looking at the credibility of the people involved. Halderman is very credible, and if he says there are anomalies that deserve investigation, they should be investigated. But the fact that this group has gone to Elias and Podesta, and so far the campaign has said nothing since learning of it last Thursday, should give you pause. Time  has just about run out. Claiming a hacked or rigged election is about as explosive a claim as one could make—-especially coming after Trump made unsupported allegations of vote rigging throughout the election. If there’s a realistic chance of anything here that could be proven to affect the election outcome, you have to trust Clinton’s legal team to advance it (or have advanced it already).

That said, let me make three more observations.

First, I continue to be inundated with messages from people advancing the most extreme legal and political theories to try to change the results of an election that many on the left see as a threat to American Democracy itself. People want to believe there is rigging, or some magic legal way out, to change the outcome of the election. All of these theories should be approached with extreme caution. Most are a combination of wishful thinking and dubious reasoning. That was true the theories that were put out there using exit polls to try to show that Ohio’s 2004 results were rigged against John Kerry. Some people still believe this even though there is no good evidence of it (as Rep. John Conyers concluded in his report).

Second, the top of Congress’s election reform agenda should be funding for a new generation of voting machines (something we desperately need), with a requirement to eliminate all electronic voting machines that do not produce a paper trail which can be fully audited to make sure that the electronic results match the paper results. In this era of mistrust and cyber-dirty tricks, this country cannot afford to keep using electronic voting machines without a paper trail.

Third, it is hard to overstate the damage Trump has done to American democracy by stoking vote rigging claims. Our democracy depends upon the losers accepting the results as part of a fair process. That concept, essential to our Republic, is under considerable stress right now.

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