As the nation see-saws between hope and despair on all sides awaiting the outcome of requests for recounts in three key swing states in the 2016 presidential election, a feature of the Pennsylvania voting system makes a reversal of the outcome impossible. This is because, in order for the presidential election to be reversed, Hillary Clinton would need to undo the results in all three states under consideration: Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, by conducting hand recounts of the paper ballots. But in one of these states, Pennsylvania, forty-two out of 56 counties use machines which leave nothing to hand-count. The voting is done by machines with no paper trail.
Thus it is impossible to determine, as paper trails are meant to do, whether electronic voting machines have been hacked or not. Election experts and computer scientists, including the data expert reputed to have broached the idea of recounts to the Clinton campaign in the first place, agree that a paper trail is a minimum requirement for a verifiable vote.
Without a reversal of Pennsylvania's electoral votes from the Trump column to the Clinton column, any reversal of the election involving these three states is impossible. Even were Clinton to reverse Wisconsin and Michigan, Trump would still lead in electoral votes, 280 to Clinton's 258. Clinton needs all three states to reverse the outcome.
Alex Halderman, director of the University of Michigan Center for Computer Security and Society, was reported by New York Magazine as having advised the Clinton campaign to consider recounts, although Halderman later wrote that the magazine had "incorrectly" described his views. Halderman said:
"I know I may sound like a Luddite for saying so, but most election security experts are with me on this: paper ballots are the best available technology for casting votes."
Almost all of PA employs touch-screen voting machines which deliver no paper trail whatsoever. No recount is possible, since there is nothing to recount. The record of the vote resides purely in electronic form. The no-paper-trail machines in use are either the ES&S iVotronic or the Dominion Systems AccuVote TSX.
Statistics professor and election expert Elizabeth Clarkson writes:
"If a clever programmer were to insert malicious code in the right place in the tabulation software, he or she could flip a minimum number of votes but spread over a maximum number of polling stations. This could achieve a win for their preferred candidate with the tampering being impossible to detect without an expensive and extensive audit of the results. All too often, such audits are not even possible thanks to electronic machines with no paper trail whatsoever."
The non-profit election integrity website VerifiedVoting.org says in its summary of electronic voting:
"Without a voter-verified paper ballot it is impossible to perform meaningful recounts."
And in an article in the magazine Mother Jones last August, the reporter noted:
"As computer security expert Bruce Schneier pointed out in a recent Washington Post op-ed, the machines that pose the greatest risk are electronic ones that leave no voter-verified paper trail. If someone were to manipulate such a voting machine's underlying software, there would be no way to prove it by comparing the machine's vote count to a paper record."
Other types of the touch-screen machines, called DRE voting machines for "Direct Recording Electronic" voting, generate a cash register-like tape on which voters' choices are recorded on paper, after being inspected by the voter to assure it accurately reflects his or her choice. Only fourteen PA counties use paper ballots marked by voters, which are then read and counted by optical scan machines. (Go here for a good overview of voting systems.)
Election integrity experts and activists have long held that voting which carries no paper trail is the least desirable system of voting and the most prone to abuse.
Election integrity activists point out that most "technologically advanced countries" such as Germany, Canada, France, Ireland, Italy, Denmark, and Finland rely strictly on a system of paper ballots which are hand-counted at the polling station at the close of voting, in public and with observers in close proximity to the ballots. This is now considered the "gold standard" for free, fair, and honest elections.
VirgilFirst on December 03, 2016:
If the Russians (or anyone else) had hacked the election, thousands of voters would have been refused at the polls because their vote had already been registered. There was no report of ANY voters being refused at the polls. ADIEU HILLARY IT's over. The political shenanigans are making the party look like complete fools. Fools are not what we want forever.
Carolyn Fields from South Dakota, USA on December 01, 2016:
Thanks for this informative hub!
George Ripley on November 29, 2016:
Thanks for all your great work Ralph! Happy holidays!
firstname.lastname@example.org on November 29, 2016:
You are right, Pennsylvania is mostly a black box designed so it can not be audited conclusively. Is there still time for NC or FL?