A growing number of academics and activists are calling for US authorities to fully audit or recount the 2016 presidential election vote in key battleground states, in case the results could have been skewed by foreign hackers.
The loose coalition, which is urging Hillary Clinton’s campaign to join its fight, is preparing to deliver a report detailing its concerns to congressional committee chairs and federal authorities early next week, according to two people involved.
The document, which is currently 18 pages long, focuses on concerns about the results in the states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
“I’m interested in verifying the vote,” said Dr Barbara Simons, an adviser to the US election assistance commission and expert on electronic voting. “We need to have post-election ballot audits.” Simons is understood to have contributed analysis to the effort but declined to characterise the precise nature of her involvement.
A second group of analysts, led by the National Voting Rights Institute founder John Bonifaz and Professor Alex Halderman, the director of the University of Michigan’s center for computer security and society, is also taking part in the push for a review, and has been in contact with Simons.
In a blogpost early on Wednesday, Halderman said paper ballots and voting equipment should be examined in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, warning that deadlines were rapidly approaching.
“Unfortunately, nobody is ever going to examine that evidence unless candidates in those states act now, in the next several days, to petition for recounts,” he said.
The developments follow Clinton’s surprise defeat to Donald Trump in the 8 November vote, and come after US intelligence authorities released public assessments that Russian hackers were behind intrusions into regional electoral computer systems and the theft of emails from Democratic officials before the election.
Voters at the Cedarburg community center, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Trump has racked up reportedly disproportionate votes in counties using electronic voting.
Having consistently led Trump in public opinion polls for months preceding election day in all three midwestern states, Clinton narrowly lost Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, and may yet lose Michigan, where a final result has still not been declared.
Curiosity about Wisconsin has centred on apparently disproportionate wins that were racked up by Trump in counties using electronic voting compared with those that used only paper ballots. The apparent disparities were first widely publicised earlier this month by David Greenwald, a journalist for the Oregonian.
However, Nate Silver, the polling expert and founder of FiveThirtyEight, cast significant doubt over this theory on Tuesday evening, stating that the difference disappeared after race and education levels, which most closely tracked voting shifts nationwide, were controlled for.
Silver and several other election analysts have dismissed suggestions that the swing state vote counts give cause for concern about the integrity of the results.
Still, dozens of professors specialising in cybersecurity, defense, and elections have in the past two days signed an open letter to congressional leaders stating that they are “deeply troubled” by previous reports of foreign interference, and requesting swift action by lawmakers.
“Our country needs a thorough, public congressional investigation into the role that foreign powers played in the months leading up to November,” the academics said in their letter, while noting they did not mean to “question the outcome” of the election itself.
Halderman, the University of Michigan computer security expert, noted that this Friday is the deadline for requesting a recount in Wisconsin, where Trump’s winning margin stands at 0.7%. In Pennsylvania, where his margin is 1.2%, the deadline falls on Monday. In Michigan, where the Trump lead is currently just 0.3%, the deadline is Wednesday 30 November.
Senior congressmen including Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland have already called for deeper inquiries into the full extent of Russia’s interfer