It's time to start seriously taking a much closer look at the vote counts in the Rust Belt swing states and to start asking some hard questions.
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.
I know the effort to recount Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan seems like Alex Jones-level conspiracy theories at this point, but if Alex Halderman and other computer science experts are involved in this analysis, it's time for this to be considered plausible enough to audit.
The revelation this month that a cyberattack on the DNC is the handiwork of Russian state security personnel has set off alarm bells across the country: Some officials have suggested that 2016 could see more serious efforts to interfere directly with the American election. The DNC hack, in a way, has compelled the public to ask the precise question the Princeton group hoped they’d have asked earlier, back when they were turning voting machines into arcade games: If motivated programmers could pull a stunt like this, couldn't they tinker with the results in November through the machines we use to vote?
This week, the notion has been transformed from an implausible plotline in a Philip K. Dick novel into a deadly serious threat, outlined in detail by a raft of government security officials. “This isn’t a crazy hypothetical anymore,” says Dan Wallach, one of the Felten-Appel alums and now a computer science professor at Rice. “Once you bring nation states’ cyber activity into the game?” He snorts with pity. “These machines, they barely work in a friendlyenvironment.”
The powers that be seem duly convinced. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson recently conceded the “longer-term investments we need to make in the cybersecurity of our election process.” A statement by 31 security luminaries at the Aspen Institute issued a public statement: “Our electoral process could be a target for reckless foreign governments and terrorist groups.” Declared Wired: “America’s Electronic Voting Machines Are Scarily Easy Targets.”
For the Princeton group, it’s precisely the alarm it has been trying to sound for most of the new millennium. “Look, we could see 15 years ago that this would be perfectly possible,” Appel tells me, speaking in subdued, clipped tones. “It’s well within the capabilities of a country as sophisticated as Russia.” He pauses for a moment, as if to consider this. “Actually, it’s well within the capabilities of much less well-funded and sophisticated attackers.”
And again, I know you're thinking that not only is this Ohio 2004 "the election was stolen!" nonsense all over again when legal voter suppression by Republicans was a far more likely answer then and a far more likely answer now to these questions, but there's also the factor of "this will be used against us in the future by Republicans."
I remind you that questioning the integrity of the voting process is already being used by Republicans against us. Maybe, just maybe, it's time to fight back.