How I Came to See That the Election Needs to be Audited and How You Can Too
As I watched the election results come in on November 8, 2016, the friends and family that I was following along with became increasingly frantic. I stayed calm.
“She’s got this.” I told them. I knew what the exit polls said. I knew what the early voting results indicated. I knew what the large voter turnout and long lines indicated.
I added up the remaining electoral votes and reassured everyone.
“She’s going to win Florida, she’ll win Wisconsin, she’s got Michigan and Pennsylvania. Then all the big west coast states will put her over.”
And then, she didn’t. North Carolina remained too close to call. Wisconsin started to flip. Florida started to flip. States where Clinton had a strong lead going into election day and in the exit polls started to flip.
“This doesn’t make sense,” I told my friends. “It’s not right.”
I woke up the next day expecting to hear that miscounted votes had come in and the situation had been corrected. Instead I found out that Clinton had conceded and Trump had claimed victory.
All day I waited for the explanation of the voting flip. The media and pollsters jumped in with theories and think pieces. Low voter turnout. Minorities didn’t come out for Clinton like they did for Obama. A previously uncounted rural white male vote that turned out in high numbers.
There are many factors that can explain why people disliked either candidate and how the election turned out the way it did. What didn’t ring true to me then and doesn’t ring true to me now is how all of the predicator samples could be so wrong — outside the margin of error — in an historically unprecedented way.
What kept coming back to me that day was a 2006 Rolling Stone article about the strong evidence that Diebold voting machines in Ohio switched votes from Kerry to Bush in 2004, thus “rigging” the outcome of the presidential election. As the votes were being tallied and the majority of the country was in shock, I started thinking, was THIS election also hacked?
It’s a theory I posited to a friend on election night, accompanied by the observation that Trump often calls out his own failings as faults of others. Did he know the election was going to be rigged, so he put Dems on the defensive early on? Or is he just the king of “whoever smelt it dealt it?”
On November 9 at 3:30 pm, I wrote on my Facebook wall “this is a real question: if Russian hackers could get into government emails, isn’t it conceivable that they could get into the election results?” What followed was a discussion that would change my life.
I started looking into how states voted to see if there was a correlation between paper voting and electronic voting machines (DREs). Almost immediately, I found a site that showed that the states that flipped to red used DREs, while the states that stayed on course for blue used paper ballots. Red flag #1. I looked into it further and found that voting machines are incredibly easy to hack into and that NPR reported in August that hacking an election isn’t as far fetched as you would think. Red flag #2. I started looking at Wisconsin — a state I have spent a good amount of my life in — and saw that almost every county that went for Clinton used paper ballots, while the counties that went for Trump used DREs. Red Flag #3. I asked a friend who had volunteered to be an election official about the security background check he had to go through, and he laughed. Red flag #4.
The more I looked into it, the more I found to look into. I knew I would never be able to prove my suspicions on my own, so I started contacting friends for help. I annoyed my Wisconsin resident sister with repeated text questions about the demographics of certain counties until she stopped replying. I sat alone in the dark, staring at numbers on my computer, missing yoga, not eating, trying to make sense of the numbers and the nagging suspicions I had that something was off. I asked a friend about election results and he asked to call me, then spent an hour explaining the way that elections can be rigged.
“It doesn’t come from the people who count the votes,” he said. “You have to look at who owns the machines.” This friend opened the door to the rabbit hole of who owns the voting machines in the U.S., what their political affiliations are, and how elections could actually be rigged. It felt like a movie — I was in the dark, walking around my apartment, while a conspiracy theorist social outlier filled me in on what was really going on in the world that I didn’t know about. And yet it was one of the most enlightening conversations of my life.
It turns out that proving that an election was hacked is almost impossible. Theoretically, a “hack” would be an outsider writing code into a machine that would flip votes for one candidate to another after the voter presses the finish button. “Rigging” would consist of whomever had access to the DRE software to flip a certain number of votes — say every 1 in 20- to the other candidate after the votes were cast but before they were counted. Both scenarios are undetectable because the people doing them would make software or code the erases itself or is not detectable. This hack or rigging would be possible to do on the machines that count the paper ballots as well. This video shows how easily a Sequoia voting machine can be hacked and still have a paper printout.
I found out that Department of Homeland Security official told Politico in late September that at least 20 state elections systems had been probed by hackers this year. And that people had been sentenced in Louisiana for rigging Sequoia voting machines, which were then sent to Florida for use in future elections. The same Sequoia machines whose owner had ties to the Venezuelan government. I looked at how American elections became a criminal enterprise and how to steal an American presidency. I saw that voter tampering was considered likely in three states in 2014. I increasingly realized that not only was it not far-fetched that this election was rigged, but entirely possible. My mysterious friend advised me to look at who had reasons to steal an election. Who benefits from a Trump presidency? He kept asking.
The answer isn’t easy, and to be honest, I don’t really care. My main concern is to uphold the integrity of our voting system. I don’t care if Hillary Clinton herself hacked the election so she wouldn’t have to rule over a basket that is 40% full of deplorables. I want to make sure that my vote and the votes of my fellow citizens are counted correctly. Our founding fathers set up our republic so we would have a representative government. If our votes are being hacked, the basis for our democracy crumbles. And unfortunately, there has been ample evidence over the past sixteen years that it is entirely possible and somewhat probable that this is the case. In August, the FBI reported that foreign hackers had penetrated two state election databases in recent weeks — a news item that made barely a blip on the national radar compared to the FBI’s release of the Comey letter in the week before the election.
The more I found out about the possibilities of this election being stolen, the more serious I became about finding out the anomalies. And the more I knew I needed help. I texted my journalist friends and was hit by anger and disbelief along the lines that I was in denial of the results and that every side who loses thinks the election was stolen. But I wasn’t angry and I wasn’t in disbelief. I could understand that people voted for someone I didn’t and I could understand their reasons why. What I couldn’t understand was how every exit poll flipped once the votes started coming in. What I couldn’t ignore what this increasingly loud voice in my gut that told me to keep looking.
For days I stared at the numbers, trying to find the pattern. I took copious tallies of counties in Florida, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Wisconsin. Then I found an ally. I asked my friend David Greenwald to look at the counties in Wisconsin and see if he saw what I saw. He did. On November 11, David set off a stream of tweets based on our findings that would be the first public display of voting irregularities in this election. From this outpouring gathered a collective of data analysts that came together to research these curiosities and discuss if what we were seeing was indicative of election tampering.
We quickly found out that comparing paper ballots to DREs in Wisconsin was not an indicator of election fraud. What we did find was much more complex and much more concrete. One of our team members found that more votes were counted for president in several Wisconsin counties than were cast in total. In correcting these errors, it is clear that most of the extra votes were to Trump’s advantage. In a state that Trump won by 22,000 votes, immediately finding an extra 5,000 votes erroneously marked in his favor is a big deal. We also found that the Republican’s stealth war against voters disproportionately kept African Americans from voting to the tune of 300,000 suppressed votes.
Our researchers also came up with enough discrepancies in other states that we believed warranted a recount. Team member Mark Lovett explains that a series of highly improbable flips had to happen in Michigan for Trump to overcome Clinton’s lead in 2016, and Obama’s votes in 2012. He also writes that these flips in the larger counties do not coincide with demographic data. Mark goes on to explain that the voting discrepancies do not coincide with the party voter registration numbers in key counties in Pennsylvania, a discrepancy that could be explained by Democrats and No Party affiliation voters switching to Trump but are not backed by national trends. What does back up Mark’s findings is another team member’s comparisons of party registrations of people who actually voted to the Pennsylvania outcome. This researcher finds that an improbable number of Democrats and No Party affiliates had to have voted for Trump to get the numbers that were recorded — as much as 60% of Democrats in some precincts along with 100% of No Party voters and 100% of GOP voters. Again, this does not prove voter fraud but it also does not follow national trends.
There are many more findings that I am not at liberty to publish here for various reasons — partly because our ragtag team of intrepid researchers is doing this in the bits of spare time we can take from our regular lives and haven’t had time to compile, partly because there is information that we’re sharing with other teams to supplement their research. We continue to find certain curiosities in Florida, North Carolina and other states that may or may not be explained by demographics. What we don’t see is an explanation that agrees with the media narrative of why the exit polls were so off. We now know that voters did not stay home and that Clinton has won more votes than any president in history other than Obama. Minorities did not come out less for Clinton than they did for Obama — and in many cases came out stronger for her than in 2012. There also has been no evidence of a previously unknown rural white male voter group that was inexplicably ignored in polling and exit polls.
The goal of our team has never been to prove absolutely that this election was stolen. We wanted to see if there was enough voting discrepancies to warrant an audit of swing states. We believe that there was enough evidence to justify the recount and investigate the claims of Russian interference that both Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi have called for. We know that Russian officials were in touch with Trump’s team during the campaign. We know that foreign entities tried to break into election databases in as many as twenty states. We know that election machines are vulnerable to attack and easy to manipulate.
For now, what we still need to know is that our vote count is accurate. We can mend the broken bridges that this election has brought to light. We are not a post-truth people. But our voices need to be heard and our votes need to be counted. Our journalists have long been the watchkeepers of our government, and they need to step up and report the real stories that matter to our people. Election security is an issue that has been woefully underreported in the past several elections. Our minds are swayed by the information that is presented to us, and ignoring these issues in the press is a grave disservice to our citizens. I do not accept that we live in a post-fact society and I believe this stories need to be reported loudly and accurately for us to be able to move our nation forward.