An Electoral System in Crisis
lulu Fries’dat & Anselmo Sampietro
in collaboration with
July 25, 2016
[Read short excerpt here]
Table of Contents
Having confidence in our elections is central to our faith in our government and all of the decisions that we make collectively as a nation. But are the candidates who win the ones we actually vote for?
A large and growing body of research provides convincing evidence that U.S. electronic voting equipment in many areas throughout the country is not counting the votes accurately. This could be due to malfunctions in computer equipment that in 43 states is over a decade old, and long past its natural life. However, in many cases, the evidence strongly suggests that fraud is the likely explanation. These problems have been occurring since at least 2004, and are certainly present in the current 2016 presidential primaries.
The documentation consists of statistical graphs analyzing data from five presidential cycles, as well as off-year races from across the country. The data illustrates that there are unusually large discrepancies between small precinct and large precinct election returns, and noticeable differences between hand-counted and machine-counted precinct results. Even in isolation, the data gives cause for concern. The statistical evidence is reinforced by physical evidence and congressional hearings: manual recounts that do not match the totals of the machines being audited; and testimony under oath about direct knowledge of tampering with electronic voting equipment.
We examined the election results of the 2016 presidential primaries, and found irregularities in the overwhelming majority of the twenty-one states that we analyzed. The data indicates, in particular, that the totals reported in the Democratic race between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders may not be correct. In state after state, independent examination by two separate analysts found suspect statistical patterns giving Clinton inflated percentages, that in all likelihood are not fully based on actual votes; and leaving Sanders with what appear to be artificially depressed totals.
The difference between the reported totals, and our best estimate of the actual vote totals, varies considerably from state to state. However, these differences are significant—sometimes more than 10%—and could change the outcome of the 2016 Democratic presidential primary. We found irregularities in the 2016 Republican presidential primary as well, and while concerning, we do not believe they are large enough to change the outcome of that race.
Fritz Scheuren, a member of the statistics faculty at George Washington University, and a former president of the American Statistical Association, has been a collaborator in this research. Examining the data from the study, Scheuren said, “As a statistician, I find the results of the 2016 primary voting unusual. In fact, I found the patterns unexpected [and possibly even] suspicious. There is a greater degree of smoothness in the outcomes than the roughness that is typical in raw/real data.”
It is important to note that the fact that a candidate benefits from irregularities does not imply that a candidate is responsible for them.
In January 2014, The Presidential Commission on Election Administration published a report stating, “Perhaps the most dire warning the Commission heard in its investigation … concerned the impending crisis in voting technology. Well-known to election administrators, if not the public at large, this impending crisis arises from the widespread wearing out of voting machines purchased a decade ago (p.62.)” This report was issued over two years ago, but unfortunately very little has been done since then to rectify the problem. So the issues we are reporting here, of security problems on old and failing machines, are not surprising. However we did find security issues with even newer electronic voting equipment, such as the machines in New York State.
At a congressional briefing on voter suppression, held on April 21, 2016, Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Georgia) expressed grave concern about the security of the voting equipment: “There is a very insidious, treacherous and deceitful method of voter suppression, and it has to do with the integrity of the voting process itself… one possibility, and I think it’s a very good one, is that someone’s manipulating the counting of the votes. Someone is hacking into these computers that tabulate the votes.”
The portrait of an electoral system in crisis is further supported by reports from election integrity organizations, media outlets, and individuals on social media that voting is increasingly taking place in a corrupt environment. This contextual evidence of voters purged from the rolls, registrations lost in the mail, party registrations being changed without a voters’ knowledge or intent, voters being sent incorrect ballots, a shortage of ballots, polling places being closed, discouragingly long lines in targeted precincts and states, and disturbingly large disparities between initial exit polls and official results, lends credence to the argument that if one form of fraud is already in play, another form of fraud is more plausible. This information is being aggregated by election integrity groups such as Election Justice USA, through voter testimonials and lawsuits that are in progress around the country.
Figures 1 and 1A are examples of disenfranchised voters from the 2016 presidential primaries. Stories like these have been ubiquitous in many states, including Arizona, New York and California. More of these instances are documented in this article on Heavy.com.
Fig. 1 — Facebook post: Becky Dillon, a California voter forced to vote via provisional ballot, June 7, 2016