Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign is reportedly being told to call for recounts in three swing states by a group including voting-rights attorney John Bonifaz and widely respected cybersecurity researcher J. Alex Halderman, the director of the University of Michigan’s Center for Computer Security and Society.
A new report from New York Magazine claims the group “believes they’ve found persuasive evidence that results in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania may have been manipulated or hacked.”
The report points out that the time to call for recounts is running short. The deadlines to call for formal recounts in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan all pass within the next week.
The evidence, which was reportedly presented to the Clinton campaign last week, showed discrepancies between counties that rely on paper ballots versus counties with electronic voting machines.
A few hours after the story was published, Halderman published a blog post on Medium refuting some of the story’s details but laying out the evidence for why election results in those three states should be challenged. He wrote that given Russia’s documented meddling in the lead up to Election Day and the woeful state of cybersecurity around election machines, it is worth auditing the numbers to rule out any foul play.
“Were this year’s deviations from pre-election polls the results of a cyberattack? Probably not,” Halderman wrote. “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. 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, [emphasis from Halderman] nobody is ever going to examine that evidence unless candidates in those states act now, in the next several days, to petition for recounts.“
After being published, a number of prominent data journalists expressed skepticism over the scant details addressed in the New York Magazine article.
Poor cybersecurity plagued the 2016 presidential campaign, highlighted by Democratic National Committee emails’ being posted on a number of public websites in the run-up to Election Day. Accusations of rigging on the campaign trail were loud and pointed, although they almost always came from the Republican nominee and eventual winner, Donald Trump.
Last week, NSA Director Adm. Mike Rogers said the DNC hacks were “a conscious effort by a nation-state to attempt to achieve a specific effect.”
A few days later, he said the hacking didn’t impact the outcome of the election.
No one from the Clinton campaign has commented on the report.