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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Friday, August 05, 2016

Election Rigging Possible, But Unlikely

Without offering specifics, Presidential Pretender Donald Trump has suggested that the election "is going to be rigged." The necessary corollary here is that someone - Hillary, Democrats or perhaps disaffected Republicans - are rigging it. It's actually pretty easy to hack into many electronic voting machines. But in Pennsylvania,the state with which I am most familiar, it would be nearly impossible to rig an election. It might be possible in some polling precincts, but a statewide conspiracy would require collusion by too many people.

In Northampton County, I am an election judge. It is impossible to hack into our voting machines because the computers inside them are completely internal. They do not communicate with each other, and no one can communicate with them.

Counties using other voting machines can theoretically be hacked from the outside and manipulated. But unless there is collusion on the inside, it is still almost possible to rig an election.

Here's why. Each precinct gets a book containing the names of all registered voters  The name of each voter is written down by the Clerk, and from time to time during the day, the number of people who have signed in to vote is compared with the total number of votes shown on the election machines.

Ideally, the numbers should match. Now there will be times when a voter walks away without actually casting his vote, so the tally recorded by the clerk could be higher than what appears on the machine. Though I hate when this happens because we really try to make sure each voter actually votes, the biggest discrepancy I ever saw was two votes.

If someone was able to hack into the machine and cast votes, we would notice the difference because the number of votes cast on the machines would be substantially inconsistent with the records maintained by the clerk.

The only real way to rig an election requires collusion among the elections workers in each precinct.

In my precinct, there are five elections workers and a constable. What they would have to do is get together with the voting machine operator and just start casting ballots for the candidate they want to win. To make sure the numbers on the machine match the record of the number of registered voters who actually voted, they would also have to forge signatures of people who never voted. If someone came in and you already cast that person's vote, you'd have to fool this person into signing something else or tell him or her that no signature is necessary.

So it's possible, but would require collusion from five people in my district.

There are over 100 precincts in Northampton County. If just 20 of them were filled with people who wanted to rig the election, that would require over 100 people And while all this collusion is going on, there would be certified watchers visiting the precincts. Human nature being what it is, it is highly unlikely that many people would stay silent for long.

So while it is theoretically possible to hack into a voting machine in some counties, elections workers would catch it because they would notice the discrepancy between the votes cast on a machine and the paper record maintained by the clerk. Collusion inside one precinct is possible and probably has happened. But rigging an election requires that kind of criminal behavior by far too many people to be believable.

Some of you will point to the 2012 Presidential, in which Obama received 100% of the votes in 59 Philadelphia area precincts. That is true, but The Inky would later learn that no Republicans lived in those Democratic districts, and Snopes would conclude that "given the voter composition of the Philadelphia area (and some Philadelphia wards in particular), and the number of voters in each division, that outcome was hardly a 'mathematical and statistical impossibility.'"


Anonymous said...

Mr. Rump knows he is the most popular candidate running for President. If he loses it will no doubt be because the insiders, including some Republicans, will figure out how to rig the election in certain areas to deny him the electoral votes he needs. Some of his people have already explained how that can happen.

Don't insult peoples intelligence. It is well known the insiders will sabotage the Trump victory if the election is close.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Trump when talking about the rigged system with the Washington Post was discussing the lack of voter identification standards presumably allowing one person to vote multiple times.

I don't believe Northampton County or the State of Pennsylvania has any system in place to safeguard against this abuse.

Anonymous said...

I recently sold some old stereo gear from the 1980s to a pawn shop. It was a cuple of speakers, a tape deck, and an amplifier that were in a closet for year that I finally got around to clean out. They required me to show a government issued photo ID to receive payment. The reason for this is simple: to help track and discourage people who steal things and sell them to junkyards.

Surely the integrity of our electoral process is more important than keeping tabs on people who sell scrap metal to junkyards, and a photo-id is needed to prevent people from voting multiple times. However Democrats stand shoulder-to-shoulder against such a simple requirement to vote.

Why ?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Trump was not speaking to The Washington Post, but at a town hall in Ohio and at another in Va. He has also made this claim to Hannity and Breibart. In my county alone, that would require hundreds of co-conspirators. It is a ridiculous claim, and no one has offered any evidence to demonstrate how this could realistically happen.

You claim one person can vote multiple times, and that is an argument made by Trumpite Roger Stone. That means someone who voted somewhere else would have to come to my district and impersonate a registered voter. After doing so once, I doubt he'd come back and impersonate someone else bc we would get suspicious. So he would have to do this in multiple precincts. Do you realize how many places he would have to go? How many people would have to do this? It is absurd.

The other possibility, and he mentioned this, is hacking. As I've already explained, that is impossible on many machines. On those machines where it is possible, election workers would flag an inconsistency between the votes cast on the machines and the number of people who signed in to vote. Either that or they would have to be in on it. Again, too many people would have to collude.

So as I said, this is theoretically possible, but highly unlikely. Trump's statements are being made so that his supporters vote and possibly so that they reject the results, leading to a constitutional crisis and possible unrest. The statements he made are reckless and dangerous.

Bernie O'Hare said...

5:22, Voter ID is not needed, but the impersonator is going to have to know the names and addresses of multiple people in the district, and is going to have to hope the person being impersonated has not already voted. I suppose you would have to assemble a crew of impersonators and cart them to several precincts, but this simply requires a massive conspiracy. Some people do get crazy at election time, but this would require thousands, and they'd all have to agree to remain silent. This is too much.

Anonymous said...

Most of the fraud occurs during the primaries in states that caucus. That's already been demonstrated. More fraud is possible using absentee ballots, early voting, or having vote tallies after the election accidentally lost or destroyed before they can be justified.

Some theorize electronic machines can be manipulated to create something like every 25th vote for a D accidentally switching to an R. The machines ARE programmed by a human.

Voting fraud is usually not a factor if the number of persons voting is very high. While things might be very secure in your local district. Your district is but one of hundreds of thousands across the land covering many different state monitoring systems.

Voting fraud is REAL, but probably very small and not a factor.

Anonymous said...

5:22, Lets think this through. While it's no crime to pawn your own possessions when desperate for cash, pawn shops also provide an opportunity for thieves and addicts to cash in on their often ill-gotten goods. Requiring id to sell items to a pawn shop is a good law because it makes it harder for criminals to profit from their crimes. And it aids law enforcement in tracking down and prosecuting the thieves who were desperate enough to go through with it. This can lead to additional actions that may benefit society as a whole, such as getting addicts off of the streets and into rehabs and leading to arrests of drug dealers and other undesirables.

Despite what the narcisistic Cheeto Jesus may think, not many people are so desparate to steal the election that they'll go to great lengths (like driving to different polling places and hoping to pick the identity of someone who has not yet voted) to do so. Voter fraud almost never happens and when it does it's statistically insignificant in the grand scheme of things (or at least it should be now that Scalia's gone). Voter id laws are bad because they make it harder for citizens to express their will while solving a problem that doesn't exist.

Anonymous said...

Why don't you just start each entry with title stating I HATE TRUMP. Well at least you found something you hate more than women.

Anonymous said...

Bernie, since the republican national convention Donald Trump has gotten worse, not better as a candidate for president. Like you I felt he would be our next president, but now just don't see it happening. Have your feelings on this changed at all?

Anonymous said...

I hate these silly arguments against voter ID, "But not everyone has a driver's license!"

Penndot will sell anyone an ID card for $29.50 even if you don't drive.

Anonymous said...

The only person rigging the election is The Donald himself....every time he opens his mouth. Shut up and win.

Anonymous said...

7:35 -

The media is being very effective downplaying Trump's ability to actually change things for the better. Because many don't analyze things much, probably just want to "run with the herd," so to speak. Like "booing" at a public event, when you really don't know what went on before.

We are told more than what DID happen, or what was ACTUALLY said. We are now schooled on what we SHOULD make of it all. I guess we can't do that ourselves anymore.

I am less concerned by voter fraud, than I am the destruction of journalist integrity. Told what to believe, lest we be idiots in the minds of others.

We really aren't getting "news" anymore in the traditional sense. Always got a little spin, but the coloring is now outrageous.

Anonymous said...

The Washington Post article Trump interview where he was discussing rigged elections and the lack of voter id laws was published August 2. I wasn't making that up.

Anonymous said...

Democrats know how to rig elections!

Anonymous said...

Just vote for The Clinton Foundation and be happy, 7:58

Anonymous said...

Voter ID laws will prevent a crime that may or may not exist. Just as a law against Bigfoot would prevent something that may or may not exist.

Simple for simple minds. How about an anti-Locke Ness monster law?

Anonymous said...

And Republicans know how to rob and cheat the poor

Anonymous said...

No need to. At the rate Trump is going the election won't even be close. He continues to show he is unfit to be President.

Anonymous said...

It is obvious to me that some of the posters have never voted, they don't seem to know how our voting system in PA works.

Anonymous said...

anyone can get an id card and vote they use all types of tricks not to difficult to see Democrats do rig elections look what they did bernie sanders there isn't any doubt in my mind that the election could be rigged ! what Trust hillary ??? really?OBAMAS entire adminstration are crooked !

Anonymous said...

LOL - yet you believe that any Republican administration would be virginally pure and uncorrupt? Don't delude yourself. Neither party as currently set up gives a crap about you no matter how much they pander to your core beliefs.

Hillary is far from an ideal candidate, but next to Trump all she literally needs to do is keep her mouth shut for the next 3 months in order to win. The Trump/Clinton debates should actually be pretty fascinating to watch.

We can all beg and clamor for an outsider to come in and shake things up, but at the end of the day you need to lead this country by solving complex problems on a daily basis by working with different people, countries and view points. Despite his personal successes, I don't think Trump has the capacity or temperament to be an effective leader and would ultimately do more harm than good. I'll tread water with Clinton for 4 years and hope for a better option in 2020.


Anonymous said...

and then

"During the 2014 midterm elections, Gallegos was on her way to work when she noticed sheriff’s deputies at the polling site at the Baptist church. “When I got to work, the staff were discussing why there were deputies at all the locations,” Gallegos says. “Not just the church, but the school auditorium, the park building and the Church of Christ as well. So I went to each of them, and they were inside every one.”

Gallegos says the county clerk eventually called the sheriff’s office to tell her to pull her officers out of the polls. It was about 3 p.m. and voting had been underway for hours. She believes Sheriff Elliott was attempting to intimidate Hispanic voters in Edwards County, which in the last 15 years has grown from 45 percent Hispanic to 55 percent."

Anonymous said...


"A Republican precinct chairman running for a seat on the Fort Bend County Commissioner's Court has cast ballots in both Texas and Pennsylvania in the last three federal elections, official records in both states show"

Anonymous said...

and of course stupid people

yep another bogus so called conserative

Anonymous said...

Voter fraud is easily organized and is no wild conspiracy. Show the same ID that you have to show to get into the DNC convention and you will be fine. Those arguing against voter ID are arguing for fraudulent elections. This is a simple issue that is obfuscated for political gain.

And republicans robbing and cheating the poor. Out of what? The money that is taken from the makers and given to the takers in return for votes? Please I want to believe that no one is this intellectually dishonest.

And while we are at it, the constant threat of Social Security running out of money yet welfare never endures the same threat. Those receiving social security for the most part paid into the system. Those on (and abusing) welfare, not so much.

This reminds me, I have to make sure I made my Q3 estimated tax payments. God forbid I don't give my fair share. There are votes to be purchased with my money.

Anonymous said...

The only reason to be against voter id is so that you can cheat, The Democratic big city bosses can do just about anything they want and get away with it. If you think that massive voter fraud is not going on in the big cities, you are either lying or very naive.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"The Washington Post article Trump interview where he was discussing rigged elections and the lack of voter id laws was published August 2. I wasn't making that up."

I stand corrected. I read the article too quickly, something I sometimes do. He did speak to the Post, although the story is more than in interview and is actually an opinion piece. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/for-trump-a-new-rigged-system-the-election-itself/2016/08/02/d9fb33b0-58c4-11e6-9aee-8075993d73a2_story.html

Bernie O'Hare said...

"The only reason to be against voter id is so that you can cheat, The Democratic big city bosses can do just about anything they want and get away with it. If you think that massive voter fraud is not going on in the big cities, you are either lying or very naive."

I do not oppose voter ID, but would like to see it as part of a deal on election reform that includes open primaries and the elimination of straight party voting. Though voter fraud does exist, it is rare. Plus imposing this requirement encourages officious elections officials to claim that this or that form of ID in insufficient.

Bernie O'Hare said...

11:13, Good link! It demonstrates just how hard it is for an impersonator to engage in voter fraud.

Bernie O'Hare said...

11:07, Your link is broken but it prove show difficult it is for one person to engage in voter fraud. For a rigged election, there would have to be thousands and perhaps millions of people like this.


Bernie O'Hare said...

"Bernie, since the republican national convention Donald Trump has gotten worse, not better as a candidate for president. Like you I felt he would be our next president, but now just don't see it happening. Have your feelings on this changed at all? "

Yes, I believe the way he handled the Khan matter was his McCarthy moment. It was quickly followed by a number of other outrageous incidents, including kicking a baby out of a rally, sexist remarks about his own daughter, his remarks about Ukraine and disrespectful remarks about the Purple Heart. So I think the American people have been awakened to someone who really is unfit.

The Huntress said...

"Over the past decade Texas has convicted 51 people of voter fraud, according the state's Attorney General Greg Abbott. Only four of those cases were for voter impersonation, the only type of voter fraud that voter ID laws prevent."

"Tracy Campbell, a history professor at the University of Kentucky who studies voter fraud in past elections, said contemporary voter ID laws are trying to solve a problem that hasn't existed in over a century.

"This would prevent you from going to the polls and claiming that you're Mary Smith so you vote as Mary Smith then you come back later and vote as Mary Joan," Campbell said. "Repeating was a problem a century ago and these laws would have been good for that, but it's a non-event now" ...ABC NEWS REPORT 2012

Voter id is a solution looking for a problem as has been shown by many credible sources. More laws need to be made to encouragde voting like making it a national holiday or trying to create a really secure app that recognizes fingerprint only or the like. Having an app would make the youth vote skyrocket.

Anonymous said...

There's voter fraud, that many people believe limited to a person voting by representing to be a person he/she is not.

Then, there's voting "trickery," or whatever else you want to call it. That could be an entire bundle of early voting ballots lost in the mail, moving the location of a polling place, creating very long lines outside in hope of discouraging people, even standing outside a polling place in guerrilla military garb with weapons, and other forms of intimidation. Could be purposely not having enough paper ballots on hand, even someone erasing votes done on paper and overall tally sheets. Who knows, what else.

YES, voting irregularities exist. That's undeniable. Probably not enough to change anything but maybe a small local election.

More troubling devices of trickery include falsely giving the impression a candidate dropped out at the last moment. Ted Cruz was accused of doing this in Iowa. Also includes promoting FALSE poll results to discourage voters to not waste their time on an obviously losing candidate. Some of that could be going on already.

Voting polls are EASY to skew to whatever result you desire. I trust none of them.

Anonymous said...

"We are told more than what DID happen, or what was ACTUALLY said. We are now schooled on what we SHOULD make of it all. I guess we can't do that ourselves anymore."

Isn't that the entire format for Fox news? Seems that is why clear channel bought up all the AM radio stations. All you hear are loud voices telling you what is "really" going on.

Anonymous said...

All election are rigged before the vote is ever taken.

Anonymous said...

people really need to lighten up khan was paid 25,000 to ATTACKtrump ,the baby comment was joking ,he is who he is and isn't politictally correct and speaks off the cuff i'ig d much rather him than lying hillary who belongs in jail!

Anonymous said...

Crooked Hillary versus insane Trump. God Save America!

Anonymous said...

You won't just "tread water" for four years. She'll get to pick at least two supreme Court justices, and if she gets just one of the houses back there's no telling the damage she can do in four years.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Translation: Hillary is worse. I don't like her, but have no intention of voting for a narcissist who has demonstrated the kind of damage he can do in just a few days. Your worry about losing the Senate is laughable since Trump refused to endorse the guys who would vote No to liberal or moderate Supreme Court nominees.

Anonymous said...

Bernie, I read this article with interest, and just want to add a couple points to the discussion:

- One of the inherent problems with electronic voting that provides no voter-verified paper ballot that could be referenced in a recount, is that they are programmed by the manufacturer, and frequently receive software "patch" updates from the manufacturer. No local officials, voting judges, volunteers, etc. would even know this was done, so this reality in no way is intended to impugn their integrity.

- With the audit trail produced by many of these machines, you would only have verification of the way the votes were counted by the machine, not how they were cast.

- Chain of custody is extremly important. I believe I read on your blog how the voting machines were delivered to the various county precincts early - leaving them vulnerable to tampering -- and I have no idea how chain of custody is recorded and clearly monitored.

- Registered voters that were purged from the roles for various reasons (and we have seen cases where these have been very political decisions -- see Fla. Sec of State Katherine Harris and her pre-2000 pres. election purge of overwhelmingly Democratic voters) are often given a provisional ballot, which may or may not even be counted as part of the precinct total. While it might be a non-factor in that particular precinct, the totality of those uncounted votes could be a factor state-wide, county-wide, etc.

Again, this is not to suggest that anyone who is involved in the process is intending to manipulate it in any way, or to "fix" or "steal" an election. But because of the nature of these machines, with proprietary software that is maintained by the corporate entity that manufactured the machines. even the most honest, dedicated and well-intentioned election official could be an unwitting pawn in a larger scheme.