In 2000, the US presidential election between George Bush and Al Gore was swung by hacked voting machines. This fact can be verified by anyone, beyond a shadow of a doubt. In the close race between Bush and Gore, Volusia County reported a total of negative-16,022 votes for Al Gore. Upon investigation, the negative vote count disappeared and was replaced with a normal-looking one, but not before the number reached the press. At the time, this was unexplainable. It was not until 2005 that security researcher Harri Hursti demonstrated a technique for hacking voting machines that involves sneaking memory cards with negative vote totals on them into the counting process. The idea is that, by inserting a memory card with positive votes for one candidate and negative votes for another candidate, one can change the vote totals without messing up the turnout numbers, which would reveal the fraud. But if one is performing the Hursti hack, and messes up by putting the fake memory card into the process *in the wrong place*, then a county may accidentally report a negative vote total – because a memory card that was supposed to be used in a large precinct was used in a small precinct, without enough votes to steal. The machines used in Volusia County were in fact vulnerable to this technique, and this is what happened.
Because the margin in Florida was small, a “recount” was triggered; in reality, ballots were being viewed by humans for the first time. Bush and Gore argued before the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 (along party lines) to stop the counting. Gore then conceded. It all happened too quickly for little things like election fraud to be noticed; the media narrative, rather than being about fraud, was about “hanging chads” and other innocent things.
Since then, forces within the Republican party have worked to promote a false narrative of vote fraud as something symmetric, that both parties do, by manufacturing false evidence of Democratic voter fraud. Like voting machine hacking, this becomes most obvious when there’s a mistake and the mistake becomes a scandal. In 2006, seven attorneys were fired mid-term from the department of justice. In 2008, the Inspector General determined that these firings were motivated by refusal to prosecute voter fraud cases against Democrats.
Over the past few weeks, Donald Trump has been loudly warning that democrats would engage in election fraud to give the election to Hillary Clinton. This is a possible thing, but so is the reverse. Fortunately, there’s a standard strategy for determining whether election fraud took place, and which direct it went in: exit polls.
I don’t have access to exit poll data for today’s election. Neither do you, and neither do most of the news outlets that’re reporting the results. But Nate Silver has this to say about them on his blog:
“One reason people find Trump’s competitive margins across a wide range of swing states so surprising is because exit polls showed Clinton beating her pre-election polls in most states, instead of underperforming them.”
At the time I’m writing this, FiveThirtyEight says (on its sidebar) that Clinton and Trump are equally likely to win, based on states that have been officially called; other sources are strongly favoring Trump’s chances, based on preliminary counts.
I roll to disbelieve. Maybe Trump really did get more votes than expected, and more votes than indicated by the exit polls Silver was referring to. Or maybe he didn’t. One thing’s for certain, though: the American people will hear a definitive result before any of this is investigated.
(Cross-posted on Facebook)