Yesterday I noted a story at New York magazine which reported Hillary Clinton’s senior advisers were being urged to demand a recount in three swing states which determined the outcome of the election. The basis of those requests was an analysis by University of Michigan computer scientist J. Alex Halderman who claimed to have found a discrepancy between Clinton’s performance on paper ballots compared to computer ballots. The suggestion was that maybe someone (read: Russia) had tampered with the voting machines in those states.
Today, Halderman has written a long post at Medium in which he admits pushing the Clinton camp to demand a recount but says he does not believe it’s likely the election results were hacked by Russia:
How might a foreign government hack America’s voting machines to change the outcome of a presidential election? Here’s one possible scenario. First, the attackers would probe election offices well in advance in order to find ways to break into their computers. Closer to the election, when it was clear from polling data which states would have close electoral margins, the attackers might spread malware into voting machines in some of these states, rigging the machines to shift a few percent of the vote to favor their desired candidate. This malware would likely be designed to remain inactive during pre-election tests, do its dirty business during the election, then erase itself when the polls close. A skilled attacker’s work might leave no visible signs — though the country might be surprised when results in several close states were off from pre-election polls.
Could anyone be brazen enough to try such an attack? A few years ago, I might have said that sounds like science fiction, but 2016 has seen unprecedented cyberattacks aimed at interfering with the election…Russia has sophisticated cyber-offensive capabilities, and has shown a willingness to use them to hack elections.
After laying out this theory, Halderman then backs away from it:
Were this year’s deviations from pre-election polls the results of a cyberattack? Probably not. I believe the most likely explanation is that the polls were systematically wrong, rather than that the election was hacked…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.
That emphasis is in the original. Halderman seems pretty worked up about something he claims to believe is unlikely. He then suggests that a recount would reassure Americans:
Examining the physical evidence in these states — even if it finds nothing amiss — will help allay doubt and give voters justified confidence that the results are accurate. It will also set a precedent for routinely examining paper ballots, which will provide an important deterrent against cyberattacks on future elections. Recounting the ballots now can only lead to strengthened electoral integrity, but the window for candidates to act is closing fast.
The left is having enough trouble accepting the results of this election without launching a recount on the premise that Russian agents/hackers may have stolen the election. What this would actually do is further suggest the results might not be legitimate if not for the election being rigged by a foreign government. By the time the results of the recount come in weeks from now, some considerable portion of progressives will forever and always believe the election was stolen, just as they did in 2000 and in 2004.
Something doesn’t add up here and it’s not the vote tallies in Wisconsin. Halderman has laid out a big conspiracy theory about Russians stealing our election, but now that it is public he claims he doesn’t believe it happened? Did he tell the Clinton camp this was just a remote possibility? His interest in “electoral integrity” would be more convincing if he had come out with this publicly first instead of going to the Clinton camp (with lawyers) to make the argument.