By Ben Graham | nzherald.co.nz
In an all-caps tweet from the White House, Donald Trump has sensationally claimed that 2.7 million votes cast for him in the election last week have been "deleted" by an electronic voting system.
Citing a report by right wing news channel One America News Network (OANN), he claimed that under the system 221,000 Pennsylvania votes switched from Trump to Biden and that 941,000 Trump votes were deleted in that state alone.
“REPORT: DOMINION DELETED 2.7 MILLION TRUMP VOTES NATIONWIDE. DATA ANALYSIS FINDS 221,000 PENNSYLVANIA VOTES SWITCHED FROM PRESIDENT TRUMP TO BIDEN. 941,000 TRUMP VOTES DELETED. STATES USING DOMINION VOTING SYSTEMS SWITCHED 435,000 VOTES FROM TRUMP TO BIDEN.” @ChanelRion @OANN
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 12, 2020
It stems from claims made about a Canadian company called Dominion Voting Systems which is one of three major companies that makes software for local governments in the US to help run their elections.
It basically makes machines for voters to cast ballots and for poll workers to count them.
In last week's vote, its software was used in multiple states where fraud has been alleged — including Michigan and Georgia, and in North Carolina and Nevada where election results are being challenged.
The software has been rolled out across the US in recent years, but it has been opposed in some states. Texas, for example, has refused to use it three times saying it failed to meet basic security standards.
Now, right wing media outlets are saying software was used to switch votes and even suggesting that the company was doing the bidding of the Clintons — a conspiracy theory that was shared on Twitter by Trump.
On Thursday, the president's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani said he was in contact with "whistleblowers" from Dominion. And overnight Trump tweeted allegations that Dominion "deleted" and "switched" hundreds of thousands of votes for him.
While there is no proof for the claims on the scale the President is talking about, there have been some issues with software "glitches".
Voting officials in Michigan confirmed a software glitch initially gave roughly 5000 votes cast for Trump to Biden in Antrim County, sparking a manual recount, extended voting hours and delayed results.
The initial results — showing Biden ahead by roughly 3000 votes — raised eyebrows in the Republican stronghold, so election workers double-checked.
They were right to be sceptical. The correct tallies showed Trump beat Biden by roughly 2500 votes in the county.
In a statement, state officials said the error was an "isolated user error" that did not affect the election results.
They said the software on the machines was not updated properly — meaning the votes were counted accurately by the machines but the results they showed were incorrect.
In Georgia, early morning voting on Election Day was halted temporarily in Morgan and Spalding counties when Dominion machines were involved in a problem involving electronic poll books made by a subcontractor. Technicians resolved the issue, and Trump easily carried both counties.
Meanwhile, in Oakland County, Michigan, election officials also spotted an error after they first reported the unofficial counts.
The Michigan Department of State said they realised they had mistakenly counted votes from the city of Rochester Hills, Michigan twice.
The New York Times reports the revised tallies showed that an incumbent Republican county commissioner had kept his seat, not lost it. Oakland County used software from a company called Hart InterCivic, not Dominion, and the software was not blamed for the error.
However, Dominion has also found itself in trouble with several subsidiaries it used over alleged cases of fraud in overseas elections.
One subsidiary is Smartmatic, a company "that has played a significant role in the US market over the last decade" according to AccessWire.
Litigation over Smartmatic "glitches" alleges it had an impact on the 2010 and 2013 midterm elections in the Philippines, raising questions of electoral fraud. An independent review of the machines found serious problems.
"The software inventory provided by Smartmatic is inadequate, … which brings into question the software credibility," ABS-CBN reported.
Then, there are allegations — stemming from right wing news websites — that the company has strong ties to the Democrats.
The National Pulse claims Dominion is "overwhelmingly staffed by Democratic donors".
It reports that from 2014 to 2020, nine people who list Dominion Voting or Dominion Voting Systems as their employer contributed money to national political campaigns, including the 2020 presidential election. Totalling 96 donations, the sum adds up to $US1241.15.
"Employees positions span the entirety of the voting system's process from set-up to tabulation, including software developers, network engineers, software production specialists, and implementation managers," it states.
"Of the 96 donations, 92 in total – or 95.8 per cent – went to Democratic candidate, predominantly via ActBlue. This means that of the $1241.15, a total of $1154.90 went to boost Democrats."
Dominion has hit back at the claims in a detailed response on its website, saying it categorically denies any claims about any vote switching or alleged software issues with its voting systems.
"Dominion systems continue to reliably and accurately count ballots, and state and local election authorities have publicly confirmed the integrity of the process," it stated.
It then gave a breakdown of some of the claims it has faced in recent days and the "facts" that put them straight.
One of them is the claim — repeated by Trump — that the company has strong ties with the Clintons.
Dominion said it made a one-time philanthropic commitment at a Clinton Global Initiative meeting in 2014, but the Clinton Foundation has no stake or involvement in its operations.
It said no credible reports or evidence of any software issues exist and claims about software updates being done the night before Election Day are "100 per cent false".
Meanwhile Trump's claim that 2.7 million votes had been stolen from him by the machines, remains unsubstantiated.
Fact-checking website Politifact said the claim was based on an OANN report that stated it had "unaudited analysis of data obtained from Edison Research".
Edison Research is a company that contracts with the National Election Pool, a consortium of American news organisations, to provide exit polling data during election cycles.
The company said it has not found data that back up OANN's report or Trump's tweet.
Politifact said the claim is "inaccurate and ridiculous".
"Edison Research told us they have found no evidence of voter fraud. Dominion, state election officials and federal officials say there's no evidence that millions of votes were miscounted," it stated.
On its website, the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency says bad actors would not be able to change vote counts undetected even if they tried.
"The systems and processes used by election officials to tabulate votes and certify official results are protected by various safeguards that help ensure the accuracy of election results," the agency says.
"These safeguards include measures that help ensure tabulation systems function as intended, protect against malicious software, and enable the identification and correction of any irregularities."