In something of a bombshell story published on Tuesday night, New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman — best known for being Roger Ailes’ worst nightmare — reports that a group of computer security experts believe that “they’ve found persuasive evidence that results in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania may have been manipulated or hacked” and they’re urging Hillary Clinton to contest the election results in those states. Sherman reports that the group — which includes noted voting-rights attorney John Bonifaz and J. Alex Halderman, the director of the University of Michigan Center for Computer Security and Society — has been lobbying Clinton and her inner circle in recent days.
Last Thursday, the activists held a conference call with Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and campaign general counsel Marc Elias to make their case, according to a source briefed on the call. The academics presented findings showing that in Wisconsin, Clinton received 7 percent fewer votes in counties that relied on electronic-voting machines compared with counties that used optical scanners and paper ballots. Based on this statistical analysis, Clinton may have been denied as many as 30,000 votes; she lost Wisconsin by 27,000. While it’s important to note the group has not found proof of hacking or manipulation, they are arguing to the campaign that the suspicious pattern merits an independent review — especially in light of the fact that the Obama White House has accused the Russian government of hacking the Democratic National Committee.
According to current tallies, Trump has won 290 Electoral College votes to Clinton’s 232, with Michigan’s 16 votes not apportioned because the race there is still too close to call. It would take overturning the results in both Wisconsin (10 Electoral College votes) and Pennsylvania (20 votes), in addition to winning Michigan’s 16, for Clinton to win the Electoral College.
There’s been some underground rumbling on social media in recent days about voting irregularities in swing states, specifically in voting districts that used electronic voting machines, which has led to the rise of a #AuditTheVote hashtag. Some, including the sister of Clinton advisor Huma Abedin, have been urging people to call the Department of Justice to ask for an official investigation (though that’s probably a complete waste of time). But Sherman’s report is the first to offer any legitimacy to what was otherwise viewed by many as a liberal conspiracy theory.
Having computer security and voting statistics experts raise red flags about the irregularities — in addition to the fact that U.S. intelligence believes Russia has been actively trying to influence the election via hacking, to the point of being on high alert on election day, and with almost every pre-election poll and election day exit poll showing Clinton winning the three states in question — is sure to intensify the calls for a closer investigation. Oh, and there’s also the fact that Clinton is now winning the popular vote by almost two million with many votes in California still to be counted.
However, it remains to be seen whether or not Clinton will do anything. There was a lot of pre-election concern expressed by the Clinton camp, her supporters, and the media about whether Trump and his supporters would accept the result of the election if he lost. Hillary Clinton, of all people, understands how important a smooth transition of power is to American democracy. But then again, handing the reigns of power to Donald Trump is likely viewed much differently by Clinton and her inner circle than, say, handing the reigns of power to someone like Mitt Romney or John McCain. They could very well make the case that in this instance, contesting the election to keep Donald Trump — and controversial people close to him like Steve Bannon — out of power is in the country’s best interest.
There is, however, this…
Clinton adviser: "The White House, focused on a smooth transfer of power, does not want Clinton to challenge the election."
— Negro Peggy (@negropeggy) November 23, 2016
Some have even wondered if Trump’s sudden bromance with President Obama and signal that he wouldn’t assign a special prosecutor to investigate Clinton are calculated moves designed to discourage any support for an election challenge by the White House or the Clinton camp.
If she is to challenge the results, Clinton will have to do so soon. As Sherman notes in his piece, “the deadline in Wisconsin to file for a recount is Friday; in Pennsylvania, it’s Monday; and Michigan is next Wednesday.”