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Clinton Does Best Where Voting Machines Flunk Hacking Tests: Hillary Clinton vs. Bernie Sanders Election Fraud Allegations

Clinton Does Best Where Voting Machines Flunk Hacking Tests: Hillary Clinton vs. Bernie Sanders Election Fraud Allegations

At the end of the climactic scene (8 minutes) in HBO’s Emmy nominated Hacking Democracy (2006), a Leon County, Florida Election official breaks down in tears. “There are people out there who are giving their lives just to try to make our elections secure,” she says. “And these vendors are lying and saying everything is alright.” Hundreds of jurisdictions throughout the United States are using voting machines or vote tabulators that have flunked security tests. Those jurisdictions by and large are where former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is substantially outperforming the first full wave of exit polling in her contest against Senator Bernie Sanders.

CounterPunch has interviewed hackers, academics, exit pollsters, and elections officials and workers in multiple states for this series taking election fraud allegations seriously. The tearful breakdown in Hacking Democracy is not surprising. There is a well-beyond remarkable gap between what security experts and academics say about the vulnerability of voting machines and the confidence elections experts and academics, media outlets, and elections officials place in those same machines.

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In Leon County, Bev Harris’ Black Box Voting team had just demonstrated a simple hack of an AccuVote tabulator for bubble-marked paper ballots. Ion Sancho, Leon County’s Supervisor of Elections, also fights back tears in the Hacking Democracy clip: “I would have certified this election as a true and accurate result of a vote.” Sancho adds, “The vendors are driving the process of voting technology in the United States.”

In 2010, and this reminder will pain those of you who can remember when Nate Silver’s outfit did real data journalism rather than primarily yay-Clinton boo-Trump punditry, a FiveThirtyEight column argued that hacking was one of two possibilities for statistical anomalies in a Democratic Senate primary in South Carolina: “B. Somebody with access to software and machines engineered a very devious manipulation of the vote returns.”

Joshua Holland’s column in The Nation “debunking” claims of election fraud benefiting Clinton rests its case on a simple proposition: why would Clinton need to cheat when she was winning anyway? Apparently, Mr. Holland has never heard of an obscure American politician named Richard Nixon.

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More importantly, entering the South Carolina primary, the pledged delegate count was 52-51. CNN’s poll two weeks out projected an 18 point Clinton win. Ann Selzer, the best pollster in the United States, projected a 22 point Clinton win. RealClearPolitics’ polling average projected a 27.5% win. FiveThirtyEight was much bolder in projecting a 38.3% Clinton win. The early full exit poll said Clinton had won by 36%, pretty close to FiveThirtyEight’s call. Tellingly, white people in that exit poll went for Sanders 58-42. But the final results said Clinton won by 47.5%, an 11.5% exit polling miss. And the exit polls had to adjust their initial figures to a 53-47 Clinton win with white Democrats in South Carolina.

Three days after South Carolina’s primary, Clinton seriously outperformed her exit polling projections again in a bunch of states on Super Tuesday, including Massachusetts where she went from a projected 6.6% loss to a 1.4% win. Super Tuesday set the narrative that Sanders had no chance of beating Clinton in pledged delegates.

Correlating Exit Polling Misses and Bad Machines

Let’s be clear: yes, correlation does not equal causality. What strong correlation does do, however, is set the agenda for reasonable investigation. Mocking fraud claims where there is a strong correlative case and actual evidence of potential vote tampering in places like Arizona, New York, and Chicago is precisely the kind of thing that has seen confidence in media outlets plummet to an all-time low. Just 6% of people in the U.S., about the same number as for Congress, have high confidence that media are unbiased and accurate.

Meanwhile, according to a September 2015 study (.pdf) by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University’s School of Law, South Carolina uses all machines more than ten years old. In fact, drawing on the source of the Brennan Center report over at Verified Voting, South Carolina uses provably hackable voting machines without a verified paper trail. Virtually all counties in South Carolina use two machines in particular – Electronic Systems and Software’s (ES&S) iVotronic, a touch screen voting machine without a paper trail, and ES&S’s Model 100, used to tabulate absentee and provisional ballots.

Kim Zetter, the best reporter on hacking and computer security at Wired Magazine, delved into the Brennan Center report with an article entitled “The Dismal State of America’s Decade-Old Voting Machines.” Zetter noted that in 2002, after the Bush v. Gore disaster, Congress passed the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) with billions of dollars available for counties throughout the U.S. to upgrade to new voting machines. Zetter then hits the critical point for discussion of election fraud allegations in the Democratic presidential primary:

But many of the machines installed then, which are still in use today, were never properly vetted—the initial voting standards and testing processes turned out to be highly flawed—and ultimately introduced new problems in the form of insecure software code and design.

Things are dismal, yes, but they are not evenly so. As this map from the Brennan Center report shows, there are just a few states that are as bad off as South Carolina (all machines ten years old or greater). But there are also just as few states that are relatively well off with all machines newer than ten years old. Read More at

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