Statisticians Urge Recount of Sanders-Clinton Primary Results, as Clinton Now Urged to Audit General Election


In an ironic twist involving the very form of election fraud which was previously mocked by many Clinton supporters as “conspiracy theory,” some of the recently defeated candidate’s supporters are now calling for a hand-count of ballots in some swing states in the general election, suggesting the election was hacked.

The Washington Post, the Nation, and other major newspapers and magazines last summer derided assertions by election integrity activists that the primary nomination may have been stolen from Bernie Sanders, in articles assuring that presidential elections and primaries were “almost impossible” to hack, in the words of one Washington Post writer.

What has suddenly changed in the almost-impossible-to-hack election system is not clear. Oddly, the major media never covered calls by statisticians, including the 100th president of the American Statistical Association, to recount votes in the Democratic primary.

Clinton supporters have seized upon the remarks of Alex Halderman, director of the University of Michigan Center for Computer Security and Society, who said of discrepancies between polling results and the final tallies:

“The only way to know whether a cyberattack changed the result is to closely examine the available physical evidence — paper ballots and voting equipment in critical states like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, nobody is ever going to examine that evidence unless candidates in those states act now, in the next several days, to petition for recounts.”

Halderman hedged his observations by saying:

“I believe the most likely explanation is that the polls were systematically wrong, rather than that the election was hacked. But I don’t believe that either one of these seemingly unlikely explanations is overwhelmingly more likely than the other.”

Last summer, during and after the Democratic primaries, statisticians and election experts called for hand-counts of the ballots in key primary states, and recommended, in a major report, the decertification of primary results between Clinton and Sanders “in every state in which we have established a reasonable doubt as to the accuracy of the vote tally.” The report, “Democracy Lost: A Report on the Fatally Flawed 2016 Democratic Primaries,” was co-authored by the 100th president of the American Statistical Association. The report concluded that:

“an upper estimate of 184 pledged delegates lost by Senator Bernie Sanders as a consequence of specific irregularities and instances of fraud. Adding these delegates to Senator Sanders’ pledged delegate total and subtracting the same number from Hillary Clinton’s total would more than erase the 359 pledged delegate gap between the two candidates.”

The distrust of machine-counted paper ballots seems to underscore calls by election integrity activists for a return to the system used in most advanced industrialized nations: hand-counted paper ballots, counted in full public view at the polling place on election night. The “Democracy Lost” report notes that this is the “gold standard” and the nationwide system used “in other technologically advanced countries such as Germany, Canada, France, Ireland, Italy, Denmark, Finland, and 53 other countries…”

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