Some Kansans appear to see my research into the integrity of our electronic voting machines as an attack on Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state, and on Tabitha Lehman, the Sedgwick County election commissioner. Others appear to see my statistical analysis of voting results in 2014 as an attempt to overturn that year’s elections. Neither of these perceptions is correct.
True, my research raises alarming questions about the accuracy of the 2014 vote count in Sedgwick County and other venues across Kansas. But it does not suggest that Kobach, the state’s chief election overseer, or Lehman, his local representative, manipulated election results to the benefit of Gov. Sam Brownback and other successful Republican candidates in 2014.
What my research suggests – but does not prove – is far worse: that fraud via manipulation of the software that runs on voting machines here, across Kansas and across the nation may be occurring.
But this software is proprietary – inaccessible to researchers. And Kansas law makes no provision for auditing election results for accuracy.
If I could gain access to the paper tapes, I could conduct what amounts to an audit. But these records are classified as ballots. State law exempts ballots from the open records act. That is why I filed a lawsuit – it is the only way to get a judge’s order allowing me to access those records.
Access to a statistically valid sample of the paper tapes could affirm the existence of election fraud. If the audit results are consistently off from the tabulated totals in one direction, we can conclude that the voting machines were sabotaged and the election results altered. Conversely, if no bias in errors is found, then we can conclude that rigging of voting machines after the votes are cast is not the cause of the pattern in the data. We still gain a better understanding of how well the machines work and the precision of the system as a whole by documenting the empirical mean and standard deviation of the errors.
Kobach has resisted my efforts to gain access to the tapes, while disparaging my research efforts. I can understand why – nobody enjoys being audited. But audits are important. It is the verify portion of “trust but verify.” His resistance is a disservice to all Kansans, be they Republicans, Democrats or independents. If he were to support my research, my success in the courtroom would be assured.
Why am I pursuing this quest in the face of official opposition? Sedgwick County is my home. I was born here and have lived here all my life. I simply cannot look at the evidence of election fraud and not demand to know, with better transparency, how well our voting machines are tabulating our votes.
Kansans deserve to know their votes are recorded accurately and that election results are honest. As it stands, the voters in Sedgwick County have no such certainty. We are expected to trust the voting machines without any verification of the vote counts they produce.
Readers who want a more nuanced understanding of my methods and research results should go to bethclarkson.com/?cat=4.
Beth Clarkson is chief statistician for Wichita State University’s National Institute for Aviation Research.