back to article CompSci Prof raises ballot hacking fears over strange pro-Trump voting patterns

Donald Trump's surprise win in the United States' presidential election could conceivably be attributed to illegal hacking and needs to be investigated, according to a security expert. A statistical analysis by J Alex Halderman, professor of computer science at the University of Michigan's Center for Computer Security and …

  1. Ole Juul

    land of opportunity

    But the US moved early on electronic voting and many machines don’t provide a paper receipt for auditing.

    Some people might see this as opening up opportunities for them.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: land of opportunity

      Some people might see this as opening up opportunities for them.

      I think one of them is called "Trump".

      That said, that US voting machines are not secure or trustworthy is something that was well known well before even George W Bush was elected, but it's not entirely surprising that there never was much appetite or funding to have that addressed, something I find telling in itself.

      I suspect this is why they need to have elections that are close: if the candidates are much apart, any "creative adjustment" would have drawn attention, now it's just a matter of tipping the balance which is far more difficult to detect.

  2. Jamesit

    A good read on ballot tampering is "Black Box Voting: Ballot Tampering in the 21st Century" By Bev Harris.

    Available for download from the author at http://blackboxvoting.org

  3. cirby

    Vote Fraud? Are you CRAAAZY?

    So, up until a couple of weeks ago, the Democrat party line was "Vote fraud? Don't be ridiculous! Never happens!"

    And "People who contest elections are practically traitors, and should be shunned!"

    So, to fix this issue, we'll start a major program to go back to paper ballots, voter ID, and lengthy sentences in prison for people who get caught committing vote fraud. Happy now? Hello? Democrats? Why are you running away so fast?

    1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

      Re: Vote Fraud? Are you CRAAAZY?

      You've missed the point - it's not the Democrats that are calling "Vote fraud", it's some academic saying, "this looks odd". It's been shown that many of the machines can be hacked, he's asking, were they hacked?

      The underlying question is why the USA tolerates insecure voting machines, but Trump it seems is also uninterested in this when the results favour him.

      1. cirby

        Re: Vote Fraud? Are you CRAAAZY?

        "Some academic" who just happens to be a Democrat.

        And, once again, the Democrats have been telling us for YEARS that there's no such thing as vote fraud - until it benefits them to claim it does.

        Let's deal with that first - by requiring voter ID and paper ballots. You know, the things that Democrats have been fighting tooth and nail for more than twenty years, and that Republicans have been demanding.

        Once we get that in place, we can talk about the rest of it.

        1. Steve Knox

          Re: Vote Fraud? Are you CRAAAZY?

          "Some academic" who just happens to be a Democrat.

          Do you have a source for that? None of the articles I've seen on this identify Halderman's political affiliation.

          Re-read the article, particularly where it says:

          "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," Halderman writes.

          In short, this isn't a partisan academic claiming that vote fraud happened, or that it's even likely. He's simply saying it's one possible explanation for the swing in those close states -- and if it happened anywhere, those states would be the places to look for it.

          The rest is just El Reg being true to form, and oversensationalizing a story with little sensation in it.

          1. circuitguy

            Re: Vote Fraud? Are you CRAAAZY?

            the fact is Obama had the DOJ monitoring Detroit and other intercity voting areas to ensure minorities would not be afraid to vote for Hillary. Halderman claims are just noise and more of an attempt to put in a statistic model to generate votes that Hillary didn't get. Hillary didn't get the minority percentage expected by the dems. Halderman and "Nelson" ethics never interfere with getting the desired results, no matter how much they have to "adjust" and loss out subsets of the raw data..

        2. Indolent Wretch

          Re: Vote Fraud? Are you CRAAAZY?

          Democrats have been saying for years there's no such thing as voter fraud on the specific issues that Republicans and especially the Alt-Right have been spewing about. That of illegals and the "dead" voting in their zombie masses.

          Paper ballots are a good idea.

          Republicans want to require voter ID because it's known that any hurdle to voting causes issues for the poorest in society and the numbers have born that up every time it's happened. Since the poorest in society tend not to be stupid enough to vote Republican the motive is obvious.

          It's also totally unnecessary. I've voted in elections 5 times in my country, every time with a paper ballot and I've never needed to show ID to do so.

          The fact that you feel they are linked is telling.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Vote Fraud? Are you CRAAAZY?

            What a load of crap.Republicans want voter ID laws because there are credible reports of voting by non-citizens and others such as dead people. Such methods have been used for years almost entirely to the benefit of the Democrats; which is of course why they object so strenuously to any attempt to curb their abuse.

            Where such Voter ID laws have been introduced, they have been demonstrated NOT to cause any issues with stupid minority voters or the poor; but they DO cause issues with illegal voters.

            It is widely accepted that JFK defeated Nixon in 1960 because of voter fraud in Illinois.

            Finally, you may have voted 5 times without ID, but I bet you haven't driven or purchased alcohol without documentation. And which is more important ?

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: Vote Fraud? Are you CRAAAZY?

              "but I bet you haven't driven or purchased alcohol without documentation."

              You need ID to buy alcohol? Really? Understandable if the buyer is of an age where they might be either side of the line, but everyone, even a 70 year old retired person?

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Vote Fraud? Are you CRAAAZY?

                > "but I bet you haven't driven or purchased alcohol without documentation."

                >> if the buyer is of an age where they might be either side of the line, but everyone, even a 70 year old retired person?

                Yes. Drivers License, Food Stamps, higher-powered Non-Prescription Cold Medicine, Doctor Offices, Prescriptions, and Social Services - in our state.

              2. bombastic bob Silver badge
                Devil

                Re: Vote Fraud? Are you CRAAAZY?

                "You need ID to buy alcohol?"

                It happens, occasionally. At age ~40 I was once carded by a teenage checkout clerk. I got a nice chuckle.

            2. strum Silver badge

              Re: Vote Fraud? Are you CRAAAZY?

              > there are credible reports of voting by non-citizens and others such as dead people

              No there aren't. Several, extensive surveys have shown minimal such fraud. It's a lie.

              >Where such Voter ID laws have been introduced, they have been demonstrated NOT to cause any issues with stupid minority voters or the poor

              On the contrary, there is extensive evidence that such laws inhibit minority voters. After all, that's what they are passed. Another lie.

              >Finally, you may have voted 5 times without ID, but I bet you haven't driven or purchased alcohol without documentation. And which is more important ?

              Which is a right? And which are privileges?

        3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Vote Fraud? Are you CRAAAZY?

          "And, once again, the Democrats have been telling us for YEARS that there's no such thing as vote fraud - until it benefits them to claim it does."

          On the other hand, Trump spent a lot of his campaign time repeatedly telling us that the vote was rigged and he'd challenge it when he lost, which he quite strongly implied was the expected result a number of times. Now that he's won, it was all fair and above board and of course no one rigged the system, how could they, the right result was achieved </sarc>

        4. tom dial Silver badge

          Re: Vote Fraud? Are you CRAAAZY?

          The vote fraud of which Democrats were so dismissive was an older type in which people voted who were not permitted for reasons such as death or lack of citizenship. Arguably, that was quite rare and unlikely to affect the outcome except in rare cases of extremely close elections, although as far as I am aware, the presumed rarity stems as much or more from general failure to look for it as any actual analysis.

          Fraudulent configuration or programming of systems used for vote recording and counting is a legitimate matter for concern. It has been in principle for many of us since they were introduced, and for quite a few more after demonstration of various vulnerabilities in the recording machines and the general vulnerability of the systems and networks on which the software is prepared, stored, and transferred. It should be noted that similar vulnerabilities existed on rather old electromechanical vote recording systems, although complaints about that were rare to nonexistent.

          The primary goal in using these machines seems to be quicker tabulation and announcement of results, hopefully by the nighttime news readings. This is an illegitimate reason. However, it can be met decently by using optically scanned human-readable paper ballots, which offer a reasonable possibility of manual recount, as is legally required in some jurisdictions when the lead is narrow enough.

          Until that is done, auditing the results makes a good deal of sense, especially in cases where there is potential for wholesale manipulation that would be difficult or impossible to identify and correct. "Recounting" and machine auditing probably would not allow anything better than discarding results from dodgy machines, but it could hasten adoption of properly verifiable and transparent voting systems.

      2. Long John Baldrick

        Re: Vote Fraud? Are you CRAAAZY?

        If you looked to the source documents you would have found this:

        Want to Know if the Election was Hacked? Look at the Ballots

        You may have read at NYMag that I’ve been in discussions with the Clinton campaign about whether it might wish to seek recounts in critical states. That article, which includes somebody else’s description of my views, incorrectly describes the reasons manually checking ballots is an essential security safeguard (and includes some incorrect numbers, to boot). Let me set the record straight about what I and other leading election security experts have actually been saying to the campaign and everyone else who’s willing to listen.

        So you might want to reconsider your statement.

    2. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Vote Fraud? Are you CRAAAZY?

      >So, up until a couple of weeks ago, the Democrat party line was "Vote fraud? Don't be ridiculous! Never happens!"

      They didn't say it never happened, they said it hadn't happened when Trump said it had. It was just another example of people doing some fact-checking, and this fact-checking being wilfully misinterpreted as anti-Trump bias.

      There was a case of a woman whose submitted a postal vote on behalf of her husband, who later died before polling day. The Trump camp interpreted this as pro-Clinton fraud.

      Anyway, your duty now is get out of your bubble, and that goes for the Democrats too. Remember you have to live amongst each other, and you have more in common than your polarised media suggests.

      1. Naselus

        Re: Vote Fraud? Are you CRAAAZY?

        "this fact-checking being wilfully misinterpreted as anti-Trump bias."

        Ah, but when a candidates lies constantly, any fact checking genuinely is inherently biased against him..

    3. Tom Paine Silver badge

      Re: Vote Fraud? Are you CRAAAZY?

      I'm a Liberal Democrat, not a Democrat, because we don't have that party here (and they're much too right wing for my taste in the context of UK government, anyway), so it's nothing really to do with me. However I see nothing with that proposal - it's what we do here - modulo "voter identification" mechanisms that are thily disguised mechanisms to stop black and ethnic minority members of the electorate voting, which I understand has traditionally been the case in some of the more benighted areas of the flyover states. (Can we have equally lengthy sentences for attempting to intimidate voters?)

      1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: Vote Fraud? Are you CRAAAZY?

        Black members of the electorate ***ARE**** ethnic minority members of the electorate.

        1. DougS Silver badge

          He isn't talking about voter fraud, he's talking about hacking

          The idea isn't that someone who shouldn't be able to vote is voting, but that a hacker is CHANGING the votes in touchscreen voting machines, via software which would have to be loaded in before the election since the machines aren't connected to the internet on election day. Or perhaps more easily by compromising the machines at local and state election HQ which gather and tally the results from the precincts.

          IMHO what we should do is this:

          1) wait until after the electoral college meets, because the country is divided enough without going back and trying to make Hillary president even if it could be proven she won and hackers stole the election. She conceded, get over it.

          2) audit some randomly selected precincts using various types of machines, in both swing states and non swing states. The reason you do it in non-swing states is while hacking there isn't going to change the results (at least for the president) if someone was going to do this they might first try a proof of concept somewhere they'd be less likely to get caught.

          3) add laws requiring a few percent of randomly chosen precincts be audited after every election, with a full statewide audit mandated if a certain error threshold is exceeded.

          4) ban any voting machines that do not leave a paper trail - if it can't be audited it should be illegal to use!

          Since elections are run by the states these laws would need to be passed at a state level, but the FEC could set some standards. IMHO they should be the sole arbiter that approves voting machines in the future, and while they can't force states to adopt the above laws they should take any means at their disposal to nudge them in that direction.

          The big obstacle is that most local and state election officials are VERY much against such auditing. In their eyes they have nothing to gain by proving their election was conducted properly, and everything to lose is something wrong is found. That's also a disincentive for state governors, legislators, etc. to do this - what if someone finds that Governor X actually got 5% less votes than he did, even though he still would have won? Even if he had zero knowledge or involvement, the scandal would probably take him down. Why should he want to do this? That's why it almost has to be forced on them. Unfortunately the average person doesn't realize that this is even possible, and those who voted for the winner may assume it is sour grapes, or turn it into a political battle by saying "this isn't a problem, let's focus on the real problem and fix real by requiring voter IDs"

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: He isn't talking about voter fraud, he's talking about hacking

            @DougS - stop being rational - don't you know that there is no place for that in politics!!

            This is the most insightful thing I have read about this (anywhere, including broadsheets and sensible political commentators).

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Vote Fraud? Are you CRAAAZY?

        Sure, if it applied to Black Panthers intimidating voters, but wait, DOJ says we shouldn't prosecute THOSE attempts...

    4. bjpatin

      Re: Vote Fraud? Are you CRAAAZY?

      You are comparing apples to oranges. The voter fraud the Republicans are against seldom occurs and the real reason is the disenfranchisement of those who are not expected to vote Republican. The fraud that the Green Party is alleging not only has a lot of evidence supporting it, but is likely to have a much bigger effect on the election.

      1. tom dial Silver badge

        Re: Vote Fraud? Are you CRAAAZY?

        Voter suppression laws, so called, did not disenfranchise anyone. They also made no racial or ethnic distinctions, although they plainly had more impact on those who were poor, unmotivated, or not very bright, or who would have had trouble documenting their eligibility to vote. Few of them, if any, failed to make the required ID available at no delivery point charge, although for some people assembling the documentation required and going to the place of issue, usually the same place that issues driving licenses. The required documentation is generally in line with that required to obtain a Social Security card, and probably in line with that required to register for other federal and state benefit programs.

        The big disenfranchisement in the US is not these laws, but the sometimes permanent legal disenfranchisement of convicted felons, along with the large number of former felons resulting from the ill-conceived War on Drugs. This number almost certainly is at least an order of magnitude larger than the number of those actually disenfranchised due to "voter suppression." In some states, this can be undone only on approval of the governor of an individual request. A few states allow convicts to vote, and some that do not lift the ban at completion of the sentence.

        The "evidence" for fraud seems to be hypothesized hacking of some equipment combined with deviation of some results from pre-election polling reports. As the BrExit and last UK general election shows us, These cannot be considered reliable. As a matter of historical fact, recounts rarely change election outcomes, especially above the local level. Even Michigan, with a reported Trump plurality of almost 11,000 votes, has a very low probability of changing after a recount. Pennsylvania, with a margin approaching 70,000 will not flip, and Wisconsin, with a margin of around 22,000 also is very unlikely to be changed. Clinton would need all three.

  4. dalethorn

    What a crock of BS. All of the controls were in for Clinton. The media, nearly all corporations, the president, etc. And she still couldn't win in spite of the current Democrat administration controlling the machines, even here in the "red" states. Her absurd 63-31 percent "win" in California, for people like myself who lived there for 26 years, is prima facie evidence of gross fraud. The Democrats lost, and if they can't accept that, we the winners are going to make sure they do accept it - the easy way or the hard way.

    1. Indolent Wretch

      Wow that's amazing. Just imagine, despite the fact that you all and all the other Trump voting Breitbart loving tosspots told us that the election was going to rigged, that she was a criminal, that she was going to jail, that she secretly ran a paedophile ring from her pentagram inscribed email server, that the democrats and the Jews completely controlled the media, that the election was going to be rigged using every method from good old lies and deceit, through state sponsored computer hacking and ending with magic-mushroom-powered-mind-f**king-control beams fired from Satan's Democratic arse. We now find out that the Democrat lizards also had FULL control of the nations voting machines.

      And yet she still lost!

      I can only imagine what a bunch of strangely honest yet utterly criminal, mind-controlling, lying, vote-rigging traitor lizards the Democrats are.

      Good luck with your complete-outsider, anti-establishment, old-white-billionaire.

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Happy

        "Good luck with your complete-outsider, anti-establishment, old-white-billionaire."

        Thanks. Wait a year, then see why we're "right". Results will speak for themselves.

        As for the allegations that hacking the votes caused Trump to win, it's only because the usual hacking by Demo-rats [from voter manipulation, october surprises, media bias, and unauthorized voting practices when nobody's paying enough attention] did *NOT* work. It suggests that the percentage of people actually FOR Trump was probably a LOT higher than reported, even at the polls...

  5. Diogenes

    How do they compare with EXIT polls ?

    And its amaaaaaazing that every single piece of video I have seen about wonky machines were a vor Trump being recorded as a vote the Hildebeastand machines were started up with votes already recorded for the Dems.

    1. Notas Badoff
      Gimp

      Icon

      Can ElReg add a TrumpBoi icon please?

      1. Voland's right hand Silver badge
        Gimp

        Re: Icon

        Can ElReg add a TrumpBoi icon please?

        I believe you used it already.

    2. Steve Knox
      Boffin

      And its amaaaaaazing that every single piece of video I have seen about wonky machines were a vor Trump being recorded as a vote the Hildebeastand machines were started up with votes already recorded for the Dems.

      No, it's not amazing. You're selecting evidence which matches your preconceived notions. That's human nature, and the nature of the internet actually enforces that behavior.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Oh dear...

        So every time you open your eyes and see evidence of an existence separate from your imagination, you are merely selecting data that fits your political prejudices that this ought to be so?

        there is no hope for the snowflake generation is there?

    3. tom dial Silver badge

      There is no more reason to believe an exit poll than there is to believe one taken in advance of the election. Aside from sampling error and refusal to answer, some people will lie, especially if, as in the immediate past election, one of the candidates is widely viewed as unworthy of respect.

  6. Captain DaFt

    From the article:

    "I believe the most likely explanation is that the polls were systematically wrong, rather than that the election was hacked."

    So even the good boffin himself thinks it's most likely just the polls were wrong, but in the next breath:

    " But I don’t believe that either one of these seemingly unlikely explanations is overwhelmingly more likely than the other,"

    The "most likely explanation", suddenly becomes "one of these seemingly unlikely explanations"?

    (I mean, it's not like polls were ever wrong in politics before, right?)

    I think the good professor still can't wrap his head around the fact Trump actually won*, and is looking for any excuse.

    *To be fair, I can't either!

    1. Olius

      Re: From the article:

      "So even the good boffin himself thinks it's most likely just the polls were wrong ..."

      You're halfway there.

      A "good boffin" considers all possibilities and considers the likelihood of each one.

      He has, in this case, identified at least two possibilities and has attributed equal likelihood to each of the two most likely, and says there should be some investigation (or "measurement" as a "boffin" might say)

      Considering, measuring and testing hypothesis is the basis of science.

      Considering and testing every hypothesis and not prematurely throwing any away because of political or other beliefs is the basis of *good* science.

      1. Eddy Ito Silver badge

        Re: From the article:

        The problem with the polls is many don't accurately reflect the electorate and report raw numbers. Many polls I've seen lack some fundamental data such as education level. Of the polls I've seen with that data clearly over represent people with at least a bachelor's degree. For instance, the latest Emerson poll showed 47.7% of Michigan voters polled had at least an Bachelor's degree when only about 26% of Michigan residents over 25 have attained that level. The polls don't normalize for the discrepancy and this particular one had Clinton leading by 7 percent. Similar problems arise when looking at race as the poll shows 10% of respondents in NH being black but the demographics of the state show that Black or African American only make up 1.5% of the population.

        It's pretty clear to me that the polls are far from the mark and any that were close are likely to be so only by chance.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: From the article:

      "The "most likely explanation", suddenly becomes "one of these seemingly unlikely explanations"?"

      If all explanations are unlikely, then the least unlikely one is the most likely. What's hard to understand about that?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: From the article:

      Said professor very carelessly appears to have neglected even cursory statistical tests to see if the results stand up. Because they don't; it's pure snowflake wawawawa stuff and click bait.

      1. If you control the data for education levels, the effect disappears, so obviously not robust that the original authors ought to be ashamed;

      2. Effect exists in places with and, critically, without electronic voting;

      3. Many of the machines in areas affected are essentially stand-alone installations; they don't have external internet connections. So hacking them on any consistent basis would involve significant manpower and a physical presence in the polling places. So it's impractical.

      Get over it people, crap click-bait is crap click-bait.

      1. tom dial Silver badge

        Re: From the article:

        It is all but certain that said professor knows a great deal more about information security than he does about voting behavior.

        As for connection of voting machines to the public Internet, it is all but certain that there were effective controls to prevent that, even for voting machines with the capability. However, hacking of individual voting machines is not the only way, and not the most likely or effective, to alter the ultimate vote count - as the professor and others have pointed out elsewhere.

  7. Schultz
    Stop

    The good reason for investigating this issue...

    is to ensure the validity of future elections, regardless of the outcome of this election.

    It never cedes to amaze me that for many citizens (worldwide) and to the elReg commentards in this forum, the election process is discussed like a soccer match: my team won and I don't care if that referee decision was correct. The future of democracy, and thereby your ability to influence the future of your country, relies on a working democratic process. If you damage that process today, you might not have a working democracy in the future when it might be critical. Is it just for me, as a German, to see this as a problem?

    Now somebody remind me again, why was it a good idea to replace paper ballots with voting machines in the first place?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The good reason for investigating this issue...

      Now somebody remind me again, why was it a good idea to replace paper ballots with voting machines in the first place?

      The main issue is the sheer number of choices a voter has to make. Including all state and local ballot items, there may well be several dozen votes to cast. Designing a paper ballot which is convenient to use, not confusing to a voter, and permits easy counting becomes a bit of a challenge. A number of things could still be done, of course, including:

      - borrowing ballot and counting template designs from standardized, multiple-choice exam industry

      - mandating human-readable paper printouts of the voting choices, which have to be kept by the election officials for a possible recount

      - separating national, state, and local elections (and the associated ballots) to keep things simple, if possibly less efficient

      However given the fractured jurisdiction over how US elections are organized locally, the most likely outcome involves a broom and a very large carpet.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The good reason for investigating this issue...

        The main issue is the sheer number of choices a voter has to make. Including all state and local ballot items, there may well be several dozen votes to cast.

        And your point is?

        I voted in a rather ridiculous banana republic style Eastern European election a few weeks ago. There were 23 f*** muppets on the f*** ballot.

        1. People still voted.

        2. The political parties have adjusted to the ridiculous number of choices on the ballot. Some of the smaller ones spend more resources advertising which number do you need to tick instead of their name.

        1. Pompous Git Silver badge

          Re: The good reason for investigating this issue...

          There were 23 f*** muppets on the f*** ballot.
          Aw diddums. There were 150 candidates in NSW standing for the Senate in the recent Australian election. Fortunately there were only 58 standing in Tasmania where I live.

      2. SImon Hobson Silver badge

        Re: The good reason for investigating this issue...

        The main issue is the sheer number of choices a voter has to make

        Well here in the UK when I've had multiple polls on the same day, it's been as simple as the different polls being on different papers (colour coded).

        So on the (say) white paper - the choice is "tick one box for your choice of MP ..."

        On the (say) yellow paper it's "tick one box for your choice of county councillor ..."

        And so on.

        being colour coded, it's easy for the invigilators to help if you struggle working out that the white paper goes in the box with the white label, the yellow paper goes in the box with the yellow paper, and so on.

        it only gets complicated (for the count at least) when it's a transferable vote system and you have to put 1, 2, 3 ... in the boxes. Even then it's doable.

        The key thing is that while it is labour intensive, it is hard to fiddle with - barring seriously corrupt places where (for example) boxes can arrive empty with fresh official seals on them. More importantly, it's open for pretty well anyone to watch and so the process can be seen to be correct.

        That latter bit is important - that the process can be seen to be fair. The voting machines may have worked perfectly - but they cannot be seen to have done so and so there is always that suspicion that they might have been tampered with. The machines almost certainly weren't tampered with - but that can't be seen easily.

        1. Naselus

          Re: The good reason for investigating this issue...

          "Well here in the UK when I've had multiple polls on the same day, it's been as simple as the different polls being on different papers (colour coded)."

          UK here as well. I think you may be slightly underestimating the amount of crap on a US ballot.

          See, we very, very rarely have more than 4 or 5 things to vote on at once in most European countries - we might do local council and parliament, and maybe even European Parliament as well, but that's about it. Having 3 bits of paper isn't too bad, and we can colour-code easily.

          For comparison, this year Texas alone had 50 separate ballot initiatives, in addition to the actual elections. Some districts also had to vote for congressmen. Not sure if the senate was up for grabs in Texas this year, but sometimes they've voting on that too.

          So you're looking at somewhere between 52 and 55 separate votes per person, just in Texas. That's a lot of separate bits of paper or different colours to pick from - and at the same time, the other 49 states also have all their own random ballot initiatives, and may or may not be voting for a senator or member of congress this year depending on districting and term limits.

          So yeah, the fairly sensible measures implemented over here for keeping voting quick and easy don't really work over there.

          1. DougS Silver badge

            FIFTY ballot initiatives?

            I hope to god one of them was making it more difficult to put an initiative to a vote!

          2. SImon Hobson Silver badge
            Mushroom

            Re: The good reason for investigating this issue...

            ... Texas alone had 50 separate ballot initiatives ...

            WTF !

            How on earth can they come up with a crap arrangement like that, the icon sums up what should happen to the idiots who let it happen.

            Even so, that is not something that can't be handled by paper - just "a bit more difficult". One option that comes to mind is a larger paper divided into sections, and fist job at the counting station is to separate them (along the perforations) and feed the bits to the separate points.

            Actually, the counting could still be done by OMR - the tech for that is well established. OK, once you introduce OMR then there's a tech angle to be compromised - but it's on a relatively small scale (ie at the counting station only) and cross checking is "just" a case of taking the stack of paper that a machine has counted and hand counting them (or running them through a "check" counter under the sole control of the auditors).

            As long as there are some spot checks done on randomly chosen machines - there's always a readily visible opportunity for fraud to be detected. If youa re going to fiddle the results systematically, then you need to affect a lot of machines - so a good chance of getting caught by a random check. And statistical checks would highlight if a small number of machines were tampered with in a big way.

            1. Naselus

              Re: The good reason for investigating this issue...

              "How on earth can they come up with a crap arrangement like that, the icon sums up what should happen to the idiots who let it happen."

              Yeah, it's not ideal :) When going to vote, in most states you literally get given a booklet with a dozen pages to fill in. This is also a major cause of why the US has giant queues for voting, and it drives down turnout because it can take upwards of half an hour to fill out the full ballot - some states have what's called 'straight ticket voting', which allows you to vote for one party all the way down the ticket, but not all of them. And you might be voting for everything from who gets to be president all the way down to the choice of municipal dog catcher, on top of various initiatives.

              Worse, some of these ballot initiatives are phrases almost incomprehensibly - I think it was Colorado (though it may be one of the other states) this year which was voting on repealing the repeal of the death penalty, so it had a ballot question asking 'are you in favour of repeal', for which 'yes' was a vote in favour of re-instating the death penalty.

              This is why the US has actually had problems with designing paper ballots in the past - one of the (many) big problems in 2000 was that the design of the Florida 'butterfly' ballot booklet wasn't entirely clear which way you were voting, so many people who may have been trying to vote for Gore ended up voting for a third party candidate - or spoiling their ballot accidentally. This was the infamous 'hanging chads' problem, which lead to a chaotic recount process even before the courts got involved and started acting in ludicrously partisan ways (at every level and by both sides).

              Hence, voting machines were eagerly seized upon as a way round this insane level of complexity, which is why many were bought prior to security or sensible design standards being employed. The ideal option would be replacing all of them with a standardized voting machine which provided a paper receipt that could be checked, but the US electoral system is NOT standardized in any way, means, shape or form - every state deals with voting itself, using it's own standards, and sometimes it's own voting methods (so Maine and Nebraska use a semi-proportional system, while most places are FPTP) and in some places this stretches right down to precinct level - and at all places handled by partisan officials who have vested interests in making the system work to their own side's advantage.

              A couple of weeks before the election, this was all being claimed as a great advantage of the system because it makes it harder to rig it.

              So even relatively sensible suggestions for reform and standardization are unlikely to be adopted.

    2. oiseau Silver badge
      WTF?

      Re: The good reason for investigating this issue...

      "Now somebody remind me again, why was it a good idea to replace paper ballots with voting machines in the first place?"

      Whoever said that it was a good idea?

      Some asshole, surely.

      Anyway, it's already happened before and those investigating got a raw deal for their efforts.

      See the article from theregister on 9 May 2016:

      Researcher arrested after reporting pwnage hole in elections site

      Cheers.

    3. Naselus

      Re: The good reason for investigating this issue...

      " If you damage that process today, you might not have a working democracy in the future when it might be critical."

      It's sweet that you still think the USA has a working democracy.

  8. Debinfosec

    There were reports in Texas and Pennsylvania where people voting for Trump were changing to Hillary. Most likely Trump has a bigger lead and won the popular vote. Yeah it's an anomaly that a democrat state or county switched to Republican. Guess what that is called a landslide. I want voter Identification which the Dems blocked in NC. Can you believe it? I had my drivers license but they don't want to see it at the polls so dead people can vote and people can vote multiple times. They found hundreds of mail in ballots that voted Democrat and were signed by the same person. No arrest has been made that I've heard of.

    1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Interesting definition of a landslide victory you have there...

      ...Where one candidate gets more votes (by over a million IIRC), but the other wins because of an archaic counting system.

      1. RealityisntReal

        Re: Interesting definition of a landslide victory you have there...

        I think you haven't researched the electoral college system or are deliberately being misleading. Here's a link to a county by county map showing election results - http://metrocosm.com/election-2016-map-3d/. This map displays exactly why the electoral college exists - it is there to prevent large population centers from being able to control the entire country. If that were the case the candidates would only concentrate on them and ignore everyone else. It is obvious from the map that Clinton won the historically Democrat large cities - such as NY, Seattle, LA, Miami, etc. Now, look at the amount of blue compared to the amount of red. Why exactly do you believe that the large cities should be able to dictate to all the rest of the country just on the basis that they have a lot of people? Not to mention that the wants and desires of the large cities are going to be much different from the smaller, more rural, areas (as proven by the map). The electoral college has a valid reason to exist - and is in no way an "archaic counting system".

        1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
          IT Angle

          Re: Interesting definition of a landslide victory you have there...

          Or to quote some of my US friends (from both sides) the electrol college is a crock of s**t

          You need to win over the largest number of people to your side... then focus on where the population is and what is of greatest benefit to the largest number of people.

          Banging on about guns and religon when its jobs, wages, and housing that actually interest more people is not the way to go.

          But then the first past the post system where win the most votes in a state and you get ALL the college votes aint particually fair either, and as for those voters who live in a state their side is never going to win.....explains why 46% of voters did'nt even bother going to vote

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Interesting definition of a landslide victory you have there...

          Realityisntreal: >Why exactly do you believe that the large cities should be able to dictate to all the rest of the country just on the basis that they have a lot of people?

          Coz democracy is the will of the people, not the will of the farmland?

          1. RealityisntReal

            Re: Interesting definition of a landslide victory you have there...

            You do realize that the US isn't actually a democracy, right? It was designed as a democratic republic on purpose. The US's founders were very wary of true democracies. They felt they had too much potential to cause their own downfall by giving unbridled power to the majority.

            One of the situations the US's founding people were afraid of and tried to design around was called 'the tyranny of the majority'. When you allow the majority to have absolute control then they also have the ability to prevent the minority from having any say in what happens. Not to mention that if it is only the majority that controls things, what's to stop them from constantly voting to give themselves free stuff (sound familiar?) and causing economic chaos - after all, someone has to actually 'pay' for all that free stuff, you know, like the minority who actually possess a non-government job and pay taxes. The government doesn't actually earn any money - it only has the money it takes from the citizens in the form of taxes. That offer of free college to all? It would have been paid for on the backs of the working taxpayers.

            I've always wondered why the Democrat party hasn't been brought up on vote buying charges. Almost their entire party platform revolves around promising free stuff to various groups in return for their vote.

        3. strum Silver badge

          Re: Interesting definition of a landslide victory you have there...

          >Why exactly do you believe that the large cities should be able to dictate to all the rest of the country just on the basis that they have a lot of people?

          It's called democracy.

          Why do you think rural voters should count more than urban voters?

          1. RealityisntReal

            Re: Interesting definition of a landslide victory you have there...

            You do know the US is a democratic republic, not a democracy, right? And it was designed that way on purpose to prevent small areas with large populations from dictating to the entire country.

            1. Naselus

              Re: Interesting definition of a landslide victory you have there...

              ... you do know a democratic republic is a type of democracy, right?

              Not that I'm disagreeing with the thrust of your statement - the US government was consciously designed to a) ensure that the property rights were defended from democracy as much as possible, because the founders were all very rich and wanted to stay that way, and b) to over-represent small states in both the Senate and the Electoral College, because otherwise the smaller states would not ratify the constitution. The tiny, low-population states like Delaware, Vermont or Maryland didn't want to be dictated to be the giant states like New York or Pennsylvania.

              Neither of these points should be regarded as a good thing, though. I've always wondered why so many Americans think the constitution was some kind of holy writ laid down by God rather than a deeply flawed document drawn up to reflect pre-industrial class interests, tbh. This used to be well understood, which is why amendments used to happen fairly regularly - there's been an average of one every 8 years across the whole lifespan of the country, and they needed to make 10 within 2 years of writing the damn thing, yet there's been none in the last 24 years (and only 1 in the last 40, which was originally proposed in 1789). It's only in times of deep polarization (pre-civil war, for example) where there's long stretches with no amendments.

      2. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: Interesting definition of a landslide victory you have there...

        "the other wins because of an archaic counting system."

        keep in mind, the electoral college *IS* the system for getting elected. Had it not been there, Trump would have modified his strategy and campaigned in places like San Francisco and L.A. [and quite possibly would have WON California]. Trump did NOT campaign here after the primary. he basically resigned it to Mrs. Clinton, focusing instead on states that made a difference. It's how all U.S. presidential campaigns are won, actually.

        The purpose of the electoral college is, in many ways, to prevent "big city voters" from having way too much clout. As a result, presidents must campaign in places like Nebraska and Wyoming and Oklahoma, instead of focusing on Detroit, Chicago, NYC, Boston, San Francisco, and L.A.. It's a better representation of "the entire country" with the electoral college. Not 'archaic' at all. It's well-tested.

      3. tom dial Silver badge

        Re: Interesting definition of a landslide victory you have there...

        Trump won in 30 states, with a total voting eligible population of around 126 million; Clinton won in 20 states and the District of Columbia, with a total voting eligible population of around 94 million. It is not entirely clear that the archaic counting system produced a seriously incorrect result. For reasons Hamilton discussed in The Federalist (No. 68), presidents are not elected by popular vote. People have disagreed with that, but they should at least give careful consideration to the argument before concluding that it is rubbish.

        Time passage has brought changes. One has been to corrupt the original presidential selection process and establish quasi-legal institutional status for political parties that, at bottom, are self interested private organizations. Another change is to increase enormously the powers and importance of the President, a change that most political parties, including the two largest, have long supported enthusiastically. It may be that the problem is not the electoral college as such, but that has been altered to operate in a way that is quite at odds with its original intent.

  9. Roj Blake Silver badge

    Diebold

    Hardly a new thing.

    I recall that in the run-up to the 2004 election the CEO of Diebold pledged to win Ohio's electoral college votes for George W Bush.

    Ohio was the key swing state in that election, and it used voting machines made by Diebold. Bush won the state and the presidency.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Diebold

      Yes, and Bush won the popular vote by a larger amount than Hillary has this time. So a more than legitimate win really no ?

      If Bush had lost Ohio but won the popular vote, I presume all you snowflakes would have been protesting about how unfair and undemocratic it all was ? Right ?

  10. Adam 52 Silver badge

    So you've got insecure voting machines. You've already got an agent with hacking skills who's already attempted to manipulate the election, and one credible source considers that agent to be a nation state. And you've got a candidate who is in favour of that nation state.

    Or in other words; Russia already hacked Clinton, why wouldn't they hack the voting machines?

    Sure it's unlikely but with what's at stake plausible and worth investigating.

    Once the conspiracy theories start you look at Trump forcing the Democrats to defend the voting process and wonder if he wasn't planning ahead. But that way lies madness.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Or in other words; Russia already hacked Clinton, why wouldn't they hack the voting machines?

      To be more precise, Russia has been alleged to have already hacked Clinton's campaign, with no real evidence presented either publicly or in a court of law. Given that the allegations were mostly made by parties anxious to either deflect the stigma of incompetence [1] or to tarnish the opposing campaign [2], these allegations need to be taken with a grain of salt.

      These allegations may be true or they may be not; in either case the appropriate course of action seems to be to harden the voting process against electronic tampering - and especially the kind of tampering which can happen remotely, and with no auditable trail.

      Then, if the Russians or anybody else ever try to hack an election, you can defend the voting process, and recover from a hack if the defenses fail. If nobody ever tries to hack it, you still have increased (or restored, if it was ever lost) public trust in the integrity of the electoral process.

      The bottom line is that it is not necessary to invoke the bogeyman to justify doing the right thing.

      [1] Look, it was the big bad bear who did it! there is nothing we could have done - they had all the resources in the world, and we had only a puny billion dollars or so to defend ourselves!

      [2] Look, the bear likes Trump more than it does us, they must be hacking us to install their own puppet on the throne!

      1. Naselus

        "To be more precise, Russia has been alleged to have already hacked Clinton's campaign, with no real evidence presented either publicly or in a court of law. "

        But has been verified by multiple external non-partisan infosec consultancies. That the Cozy Bear (Russian military) and Fancy Bear (FSB) hacking teams were both in the DNC's systems is not really in doubt, with Fancy Bear likely to have been the source of the email leaks.

        1. Debinfosec

          But would you be saying this if Clinton won? We use paper ballots in NC. The fact that Russia allegedly and I know 1. nation state level 2. date time stamped during Russia work day, but that's all they have. There are hackers for hire in Russia big time. What if China wrote the code and sent it to Russia to be executed? Anyway hacking Podesta's email and Clinton's insecure co-mingled classified and unclassified email is a lot different than hacking the voting system. The NSA would have known if there were hacks on election day. Are you kidding me everything is being tracked. They would have found something by now. This is pure fantasy that the voting machines got hacked. There is no evidence whatsoever. The polls being different than the results is a joke. I mean CNN, ABC, MSNBC, and CBS are just mouthpieces for the DNC. I mean we all knew it, but it is crystal clear now. It is no surprise whatsoever that the polls were wrong. I mean there is one thing I learned in statistics and that is you can make numbers look however you want. The guy running the board on CNN several times on election night when a state went blue said "oh that makes me feel better". I mean really does anyone think the MSM is objective in anyway. Please, so of course their stupid polls were skewed. They threw out what they didn't agree with as outliers, I'm sure.

    2. tom dial Silver badge

      Yet the same "credible source" that considers the board of elections and email hackers to have been nation-state actors has said publicly that there is no evidence of election hacking as such.

      Maybe Russia wished for Donald Trump to be elected, and maybe they made these efforts to that end, and maybe those efforts had an effect on voting behavior. That's a lot of maybes, and the direction of the effect on voters is, to understate, pretty murky.

  11. tiggity Silver badge

    Waht makes an outlier?

    Given demographic disparity across polling station catchment areas....

    How were the discrepancies calculated?

    Were they compared to stations with similar demographics? Were they compared with exit polls?

    If just comparison with other polling stations, unless you start factoring in age, race, social category etc then all a bit pointless as cannot assume a homogenous voting population.

    Disclosure: Not US so no vested interest in election outcome, not a fan of either of them (although politicians I am a fan of world wide would easily fit on fingers of one hand)

    1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

      Re: Waht makes an outlier?

      I have sympathies for the loss of your digits

  12. Roj Blake Silver badge

    History is a Bugger

    Assuming that the voting machines were hacked, and assuming that Russia was behind it, it could be argued that it's fair payback for all of the times the US has previously intervened in the electoral process in countries throughout the Middle East, Asia, and South America.

  13. Cynical Observer
    Flame

    We may yet find out...

    This surfaced yesterday evening - Jill Stein raising funds to initiate a recount in WI, MI and PA.

    At one stage last night, (UK time), while the US was awake, it was ratcheting up at about $3000 per minute. It's hit its first target and while it has slowed a little it is still clocking up bit by bit.

    </turning up the heat>

    1. DougS Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Interesting that Stein is doing this

      Given that her presence may have made the difference in two of those three states:

      Wisconsin: Trump won by 27,257 votes; Stein got 30,980 votes (NYT)

      Michigan: Trump won by 10,704 votes; Stein got 51,463 votes (state of Michigan)

      Pennsylvania: Trump won by 68,236 votes; Stein got 48,912 votes (NYT)

      I guess she didn't mind running as a third party candidate when she thought Hillary was going to beat Trump. Ooops!

  14. Sirius Lee

    Seven stages of grief

    This is an example of the first of the seven stages: shock and denial.

    We've had it in the UK since June 23rd. Sadly nearly half the population are still at stage 1 four months later. Some are so deep they even think bringing Tony Blair back can part of the solution. That is real desperation.

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Re: Seven stages of grief

      I'm not sure the losing side ever moves past denial in politics. A lot of the "not my president" republicans were in denial about Obama the entire past eight years, that's probably why many are so openly gleeful about Trump. Even when he reneges on some of his promises and ends up doing a few things that are more democrat than republican, they'll still be happy it's not Hillary (even though she's about as neocon as any republican and more of a hawk than half the republican primary field)

      Not that this stops them from moving to other stages - chiefly anger - but they never seem to leave the denial behind.

  15. Captain Badmouth
    Thumb Up

    Trumpton

    Private eye this week beat you to it.

    Not on the website yet, but those over the pond may read about it here :

    https://beastrabban.wordpress.com/2016/01/09/donald-trump-now-satirised-in-private-eye-cartoon/

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Many commentators in other articles refer to "putinbots" as a derogatory term for someone who disagrees with them about Vlad, but it would appear from the number of downvotes that hillarybots also exist...

  17. Neiljohnuk

    "Halderman is clear; the only secure form of voting is on paper, with a viable audit trail. This works well in the UK and Australia, where election nights are busy times as officials index paper ballots on camera. But the US moved early on electronic voting and many machines don’t provide a paper receipt for auditing."

    Works well when someone demands a recount when a TV cameraman catches suspicious activity at a count, and the public see it.

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