Earlier today, Ed examined the question of just what went so wrong for Hillary Clinton in Michigan on November 8th. Clearly a case can be made that Secretary Clinton failed to invest enough effort in securing the state and likely was taking it for granted, but that doesn’t mean that somebody wasn’t trying very, very hard to make sure she won. It’s going to be difficult to draw in absolute line from Point A to Point B, but some of the voting machines around the Detroit area were acting in what could only be described as a very peculiar fashion. In fact, in almost 250 Wayne County precincts, the optical scanner style voting machines recorded more votes than were actually cast. (Detroit News)

Voting machines in more than one-third of all Detroit precincts registered more votes than they should have during last month’s presidential election, according to Wayne County records prepared at the request of The Detroit News.

Detailed reports from the office of Wayne County Clerk Cathy Garrett show optical scanners at 248 of the city’s 662 precincts, or 37 percent, tabulated more ballots than the number of voters tallied by workers in the poll books. Voting irregularities in Detroit have spurred plans for an audit by Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson’s office, Elections Director Chris Thomas said Monday.

The Detroit precincts are among those that couldn’t be counted during a statewide presidential recount that began last week and ended Friday following a decision by the Michigan Supreme Court.

There were other problems with the voting records which hampered efforts at a recount, but these machines registering votes from imaginary people should be the real focus of the problem here. And while, as I said at the top, we’ll never know precisely who all of these fictional votes were cast for, it’s fair to at least point out that these were all precincts which Hillary Clinton won in a landslide. It would be surprising indeed to learn that the “extra” votes had all been cast for Trump. (And that’s putting it mildly.)

This is a bit much to write off to simple mechanical error, particularly for those of us who have been complaining about optical scanner machines for years now. Some models, like the ones used in New York, provide no feedback to the voter as to what was recorded and the only check you can impose later is to compare the paper ballots fed into the machine to the totals which it spits out. If the county is truly going to launch a thorough investigation into this mess they need to break out the paper ballots from a large number of these machines, see how many were cast for each candidate and then compare those totals to what the machine reported. If it’s a fairly even (or at least proportional) split between Trump and Clinton votes, then fine… you just have terrible machines. But if the overage is pretty much entirely in favor of one candidate or the other then the investigation needs to go in an entirely different direction.

This was not a small number of precincts nor a small number of votes. As our own Guy Benson pointed out yesterday, this is an embarrassment suitable for a third world nation at a minimum.

This is the stuff of third world nations and banana republics; an embarrassment to these heavily Democratic counties. And of course Michigan’s horrible, nasty Republicans are trying to “suppress the vote” or whatever by demanding answers about, well, extremely fishy developments like this:

One Democratic elections official quoted in the story attributes the discrepancies to “human error.” Sixty percent of ballots being ineligible for recount because of irregularities and mismatched data is a lot of human error.

While there isn’t enough data yet to be definitive, I’ll be the one to just come out and say it. This was too much “error” to simply be ascribed to a software glitch and it was centered in a Democratic stronghold in the state. If they actually do a full balance sheet for all of those machines and it turns out that they were overcounting in favor of Trump I’ll happily buy donuts and coffee for the first person to challenge this assertion.

And if you’re among the crowd who keeps telling me that voter fraud isn’t real or at least is so rare that it never affects the outcome of an election, keep a bookmark on this case. Remember that Trump only won the state by a bit more than 10,000 votes. The reality may turn out to be that he actually won by considerably more but Clinton’s totals were being fluffed up around Detroit. And what if another 250 precincts had turned out to be “malfunctioning” in this fashion? You can make up 10K votes pretty fast with roughly one thousand machines. Hillary might have wound up “winning” Michigan in that event and the national electoral vote count would have been considerably closer, possibly spurring even more heated efforts at other recounts and challenges. Think about it.