“This whole election is being rigged,” Republican candidate Donald Trump warned supporters before Election Day. “The whole thing is one big fix.” Even after being declared the winner, despite losing the national popular vote by a record 2.9 million votes, Trump claimed that “millions” of illegal ballots had been cast. But when America was given a chance to find out if the election results were accurate, Team Trump fought relentlessly to keep that from happening.
Trump’s self-described “landslide” was anything but. The outcome was even closer than in 2004. Out of some 14 million votes cast in three decisive states—Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania—Trump’s margin over Hillary Clinton was just 77,000 votes. Had three votes been recorded for Clinton instead of Trump in each precinct in those states, she would have won the Electoral College and the Presidency. Just three votes.
Because the poll-defying margins were razor thin, computer science and voting machine experts begged Clinton to file for recounts, by hand, in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. It was the only way, they argued, to be certain that oft failed, easily manipulated computers hadn’t been rigged. Voter-registration and party email systems had already been hacked in 2016.
“Reality is just as hackable as the lab,” warned the University of Michigan’s J. Alex Halderman. “In just a few seconds anyone can install vote-stealing malware on those machines that silently alters the electronic records of every vote,” Professor Halderman explained. “We have one surefire defense against cyber attack, and that’s voting machines in which voters can fill out a paper ballot. But the paper doesn’t do any good unless someone looks at it.”