Fox News figures are hyping unverified stories of electronic voting machines allegedly switching voters’ votes for president amid cries from Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump of “large scale voter fraud.” In fact, “just about every voting technology expert” says voting machines are not rigged to flip votes, and instead “human error” and aging machines often lead to incorrect vote choices, which can be fixed. Conservatives hyped alleged vote flipping during the 2012 election as well.
Trump Resorts To Decrying “Voter Fraud” Amid Sinking Campaign
Trump Has Repeatedly Said That “There Is Large Scale Voter Fraud Happening.” Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has questioned “how legitimate all of these elections are” by claiming that “voter fraud is very, very common” and that dead people and noncitizens are voting. [Media Matters, 10/17/16; 10/18/16; 10/21/16]
Fox Figures Hype Unverified Stories Of Electronic Voting Machines Flipping Votes From Trump To Clinton
Brit Hume: “Certainly” Instances Of “Voter Fraud” Like “Votes Allegedly Being Changed … Could Make A Difference” In Local, Congressional, And Statewide Elections. Fox News host Brit Hume mentioned “the kind of voter fraud that we hear about, with some numbers of voters either voting illegally or votes allegedly being changed,” and claimed that such fraud “could make a difference in a local election, particularly, possibly a congressional district election, maybe in a statewide election.” From the October 21 edition of Fox News’ On the Record with Brit Hume:
NINA EASTON: Is there voter fraud? Yeah. There’s instances of voter fraud. But, there isn't widespread rigged election type voter fraud that would swing an election, particularly a 4 or 5 or 6 percent --
BRIT HUME (HOST): You’re talking about a presidential election, right?
EASTON: Presidential, national presidential election --
HUME: Because certainly the kind of voter fraud that we hear about, with some numbers of voters either voting illegally, or votes allegedly being changed, or being bused in from out of state, sound like the kind of numbers that could make a difference in a local election, particularly, possibly a congressional district election, maybe in a statewide election. [Fox News, On the Record with Brit Hume, 10/21/16]
Jon Scott: Voters Complain That “Touch-Screen Voting Machines … Can Flip Votes, Registering The Wrong Candidate.” Fox host Jon Scott said that “some people complain that the devices can flip votes, registering the wrong candidate when voters push the button on-screen,” and Fox correspondent Eric Shawn discussed allegations from “past elections” of voters’ choices being “swapped.” From the October 17 edition of Fox News’ Happening Now:
JON SCOTT (CO-HOST): Talking about the election, touch-screen voting machines are common in polling places all across the country, but some people complain that the devices can flip votes, registering the wrong candidate when voters push the button on-screen. Election officials deny that it’s a widespread problem. Eric Shawn takes a look. Eric?
ERIC SHAWN: Hello, Jon. Well what happens if you go vote for Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton's name is checked? Or you vote for Mrs. Clinton and Jill Stein's name pops up? Well, voters have said in past elections, their choices were swapped. [Fox News, Happening Now, 10/17/16]
Ainsley Earhardt: “Think About All The People That Walked Away” From Polling Booths And “Didn’t Double-Check” If Their Vote Was Correct. Fox host Steve Doocy hyped a viral story about Texas voters trying “to vote straight ticket” and claiming their vote for “Donald Trump up at the top was changed to Hillary Clinton.” Co-host Ainsley Earhardt said, “Think about all the people that walked away that didn't double-check,” before tying the allegations of vote flipping to Trump’s message that “ the system is rigged.” From the October 26 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:
STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): Meanwhile, let's take you down to Texas. This is quite a story. If you’ve got a smartphone and you look at the internet, this is ricocheting all over the place. Early voting has started down in Texas. And in the counties of Dallas, Collin, and Tarrant, along with some other counties, apparently some people tried to vote straight ticket, all Republican, and just before they hit vote, the big button down at the bottom, they reviewed it and they realized, wait a minute, Donald Trump up at the top was changed to Hillary Clinton. Nothing was different except Donald Trump. So all sorts of people down in Texas started getting up on Facebook.
AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): The problem with that is those are a few people that are coming out and saying they noticed the problem. Think about all the people that walked away that didn't double-check. And so it’s just -- Donald Trump keeps saying the system is rigged. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 10/26/16]
Hannity.Com: “Texas Republicans Reporting Their Early Votes Are Being Changed To Clinton-Kaine.” The staff of Fox host Sean Hannity’s website posted a story alleging that “voting machines are erroneously changing their votes from Republican to Democrat during early voting” in Texas, linking to unverified Facebook posts complaining about the purported vote flipping:
According to at least two voters in Texas, voting machines are erroneously changing their votes from Republican to Democrat during early voting.
96.9 Kiss FM in Amarillo, Texas reports that “two voters from Canyon posted the experience they had while voting. Apparently, when these voters chose the straight Republican option, the ballot selected Clinton/Kaine instead of Trump/Pence.” [Hannity.com, 10/25/16]
Experts, Judges, And County Administrators Say Alleged Vote Flipping Is The Result Of Human Error And Machine Calibration, Not Widespread Fraud Or Rigged Machines
Texas Judge: “There Is Nothing Wrong With Any Of The Machines We Use For Voting. … They Do Not Flip Your Vote.” Responding to viral “social media claims that local voting machines are changing votes,” Potter County Judge Nancy Tanner told the Amarillo Globe-News, “‘There is nothing wrong with any of the machines we use for voting. … They do not flip your vote. They do not flip parties. Humans do that.’” Tanner reportedly “verified with Potter County Elections Administrator Melynn Huntley that there have been no problems with the machines.” The Amarillo Globe-News also noted, “Local voting machines are calibrated and tested daily.” [Amarillo Globe-News, 10/25/16]
NPR: “Human Error” And Old Machines Cause Vote Flipping, Not “Rigged” Machines. NPR’s Pam Fessler wrote an article titled “Some Machines Are Flipping Votes, But That Doesn't Mean They're Rigged,” explaining that “just about every voting technology expert” says voting machines are not rigged. Fessler explains that “voting machines used in much of the country are old, more than 10 years in most places,” and technology from the 1990s is often used to “calibrate the touch screens,” leading to hardware issues. Fessler also writes that “human error” is also often a cause of vote flipping, to the point where “even long fingernails have been blamed for such mistakes in the past.” [NPR, 10/26/16]
Local Texas Officials: Instances Of Alleged Vote Flipping Often “Likely An Instance Of User Error.” According to The Dallas Morning News, at least five local Texas officials -- including Dallas County elections administrator Toni Pippins-Poole, Tarrant County election administrator Frank Phillips, Harris County director of communications for voter outreach Hector DeLeon, Potter County elections administrator Melynn Huntley, and Randall County elections administrator Shannon Lackey -- have all said that “the allegations are more than likely false or instances of user error.” Huntley said that the “touch-screen machines are tested twice before they're approved, and they're calibrated daily to make sure where voters touch is accurately recorded.” [The Dallas Morning News, 10/26/16]
Brennan Center For Justice: Alleged Vote Flipping Can Result From Machine “Calibration Errors,” Which Can Be Fixed By Recalibrating. A September 2015 Brennan Center for Justice report said “calibration errors,” which can result from aging machines or loose casings, often “cause machines to register voters’ choices for the wrong candidate.” The report did not identify any intentional voter fraud as reason for vote flipping (citations removed):
Touch screen machines are vulnerable to “calibration” problems, sometimes referred to as “vote ﬂipping.” Similar to alignment errors, calibration errors can cause machines to register voters’ choices for the wrong candidate. In recent elections, voters uploaded videos of this vote ﬂipping to the Internet and they went viral. EAC Commissioner Matt Masterson stated that calibration errors become more frequent as machines age. “Most of the time the problem with touch screen units is a calibration issue. A touchscreen is three pieces of plastic layered over each other, the casing that holds those will loosen and that leads to calibration problems — that is going to happen with aging units.” Masterson also noted that election oﬃcials have become familiar with this issue and have learned to pull machines out of service and recalibrate them when it happens. [Brennan Center for Justice, 9/15/15]
In Previous Elections, Conservatives Have Also Hyped Vote Flipping And Tied It To Voter Fraud
Trump On 2012 Election Day: “More Reports Of Voting Machines Switching Romney Votes To Obama. … Don’t Let Your Vote Be Stolen.”
Republican National Committee Demanded Investigation Into Electronic Voting Machines In 2012. The Republican National Committee sent a letter to a variety of state election officials demanding that alleged problems of voting machines changing votes “be investigated and fixed,” TownHall reported. [TownHall, 11/2/12]
Fox’s Eric Shawn In 2012: “Claims Increase Of Machines Switching Votes In Ohio, Other Battlegrounds.” Fox’s Eric Shawn wrote during the 2012 election that many voters were complaining that “when they tried to select Mitt Romney, the machine indicated they had chosen President Obama.” The article ended with, “If you suspect problems [at] the polls or voter fraud where you live, tell us: Voterfraud@Foxnews.com.” [FoxNews.com, 11/2/12]
Breitbart News In 2012: “Voting Machines In Battleground States Switching Romney Votes For Obama.” A November 3, 2012, Breitbart News article hyped “complaints from voters in at least six states that their intended votes for Mitt Romney on electronic touchscreen voting machines came up as votes for President Barack Obama.” [Breitbart News, 11/3/12]
InfoWars In 2012: “Voter Fraud” Possibly “Facilitated” By Use Of “Electronic Voting Machines.” Conspiratorial website InfoWars cited a lengthy list of alleged problems with electronic voting machines in 2012 to suggest that “vote fraud” could be “facilitated by the use of electronic voting machines.” [InfoWars, 11/6/12]