Politics & Government

WSU statistician to present her vote-rigging case to the public

People use electronic voting machines at the Old Sedgwick County Courthouse on Nov. 3 in early voting.
People use electronic voting machines at the Old Sedgwick County Courthouse on Nov. 3 in early voting. File photo

A Wichita State University statistician has scheduled a public meeting Saturday to present her case that election results were tampered with in last month’s elections in south-central Kansas.

Sedgwick County’s election commissioner said security safeguards are in place to prevent tampering, and she’s confident votes are being counted accurately.

Beth Clarkson, chief statistician for WSU’s National Institute of Aviation Research, organized all-day exit polls at five polling sites in the Nov. 8 election: three in Wichita and one each in Wellington and Winfield. The exit polling was not related to her work at WSU.

She says the results from all the sites show clear patterns that could only be explained by tampering with the voting machines or the final count.

“In the absence of election fraud, the difference in vote share between the official count and an exit poll (called the error) will be randomly distributed (both positive and negative) and relatively small,” Clarkson wrote in a post on her website, showmethevotes.org, analyzing the results of the exit-poll project.

However, she said, the differences in vote and exit-poll counts consistently favored particular candidates and parties.

“These exit poll results clearly point to manipulation of the machine counts of our votes,” Clarkson wrote. “These are not random errors. There is no other reasonable explanation for large and consistent errors in favor (or against) particular candidates in this situation.”

Presidential race

In the presidential race, Republican candidate Donald Trump’s official count substantially outperformed the exit poll in the four Wichita and one Winfield locations where exit polling was done. Democrat Hillary Clinton’s votes outperformed the exit poll only in Wellington.

The same pattern of conservative-backed candidates outperforming their exit poll results in Wichita and Winfield occurred in races down the ballot. Libertarian candidates outperformed their exit polls at all five sites surveyed in the races for U.S. House and Senate, Clarkson reported.

“This is what results look like if an election is rigged,” Clarkson said.

The differences weren’t enough to flip the winner in any of the major races, such as president, Congress or state Supreme Court, she said.

The data sample isn’t large enough to determine whether it changed the outcome of smaller races for seats in the state Legislature and Sedgwick County Commission, she said.

Sedgwick County Election Commissioner Tabitha Lehman said her office is “absolutely confident in the accuracy and reliability of our voting machines, or we wouldn’t be using them.”

She said she couldn’t explain any discrepancies reported by Clarkson’s exit polls because she hasn’t vetted their “accuracy, methodology or integrity.”

Lehman said the actual voting machines are checked for accuracy before every election, including a public test of the machines the Friday before the election.

Voting machines are transported to the polling places the day before the election, and each site must have a secure room where they can be kept overnight until poll workers arrive and set them up early in the morning on Election Day.

The data cards are secured in the machines with ordinary zipties. New machines being purchased by the county will have more secure number-coded seals provided by the manufacturer, Lehman said.

However, she said, even if somebody did take out the data cards, the programming cannot be altered without specialized software that only the county election office has. Any alteration in programming would cause the machine to shut down, she said.

The vote-counting equipment is not connected to the internet, and there is no internet access to the room where they are kept, so there would be no way to access them from outside, she said.

In addition, she said, election staff members check to ensure that the counts from the individual voting machines match the tallies reported by the vote-counting equipment.

In the past, Lehman’s office and state election officials have blocked Clarkson’s efforts in court to get permission to review the validity of the counts using the paper audit trails produced by the machines when voters cast a ballot.

A case seeking to overturn that has been filed with the state Court of Appeals, Clarkson said.

Public meeting

Clarkson will present her findings and take questions about the research at a meeting from 12:30 to 2 p.m. Saturday in the third-floor meeting room at the Wichita Central Library, 223 S. Main.

“There are problems revealed in all five (exit-poll) sites, but I’m not sure what the next step to take is,” Clarkson wrote in her meeting announcement. “I’ve planned 30 minutes to present the results, 30 minutes to answer questions and 30 minutes to discuss what the next step needs to be to improve our voting system.”

Every voter leaving the polling places targeted in the survey was invited to participate in the exit poll, and most of the sites got between 60 and 80 percent response, Clarkson said.

The exit poll was done using a paper form that voters filled out privately.

Dion Lefler: 316-268-6527, @DionKansas

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