Dispelling every bullshit election conspiracy that’s inundated the internet this week would be a full-time job in and of itself, but one particularly insidious theory has blown up to such a ridiculous degree that it deserves to be set straight.
Michigan GOP Chairwoman Laura Cox claimed at a press conference Friday that an election software “glitch” in one Michigan county switched thousands of votes for President Donald Trump to votes for Democratic challenger (now President-Elect) Joe Biden. Sounds like a pretty big scandal, right? Well, it very well might be if any portion of that statement was true. But though this conspiracy theory has been thoroughly debunked by Michigan election officials, that hasn’t stopped Trump supporters from sounding alarms about supposed voter fraud in many of the 28 states where the software’s manufacturer, Dominion Voting Systems, supplies election tech.
The theory, which has “no merit” according to a statement from Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, claims that an Antrim County clerk reported a glitch in the county’s ballot tabulating software that miscounted 6,000 Trump votes as Biden votes, resulting in officials having to recount all ballots by hand. Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel later parroted this theory along with several other unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud in her call for recounts in several battleground states. Trump also shared an article on Twitter Saturday about this so-called “glitch” from the right-wing propaganda site Breitbart.
Benson explained that while Antrim County did experience a minor election tech issue this week, the GOP’s explanation is highly misleading. For one, local authorities caught and reported the problem early on in the vote tabulating process, so the error was never reflected in the state’s official results. It also wasn’t the result of a “glitch” in the software’s programming either, but rather an embarrassing human error that I’m sure we’ve all been guilty of before: putting off a software update for too long.
Apparently, an Antrim County clerk didn’t update the software used to aggregate voting machine data and generate unofficial results, an accidental oversight that caused a miscalculation in the county’s unofficial results, Benson said. However, she added that existing election safeguards worked as intended and ensured the issue was swiftly corrected before the county submitted its official tally.
Here’s how the process usually works: Voters submit their ballots to voting machines that scan and retain them. Once the machines are finished processing these ballots, each one prints out its final tally of votes for each candidate in each race. Officials then aggregate these printed totals using election management system software. However, since Antrim County dragged its feet on a software update, its version miscalculated when combining these totals, even though each individual voting machine tabulated the ballots correctly.
“As with other unofficial results reporting errors, this was an honest mistake and did not affect any actual vote totals,” Benson said. “Election clerks work extremely hard and do their work with integrity. They are human beings, and sometimes make mistakes. However, there are many checks and balances that ensure mistakes can be caught and corrected.”
County officials disclosed this discrepancy in a Facebook post on Thursday. They explained that they were reviewing the printed tallies from each precinct and counting vote totals by hand—not individual ballots, a claim that Benson called “completely false”—after noticing the election software’s erroneous reporting. The incorrect unofficial results, which had already been posted to its website, were removed at 4 a.m. that day.
Benson added that even if officials hadn’t noticed the issue when they did, it would have been caught during the county canvass. That’s when the Boards of County Canvassers, which are made up of two Democrats and two Republicans, go around and verify the printed tallies from each machine to ensure the countywide totals are correct.
“Michigan’s elections were conducted fairly, effectively and transparently and are an accurate reflection of the will of Michigan voters,” she said.
A Michigan judge on Thursday also threw out a lawsuit from the Trump campaign challenging the state’s ballot counting. The campaign demanded that Benson require “meaningful access” for campaign poll watchers to supervise the state’s ballot counting, and by “campaign poll watchers” it’s presumed he was referring to the masses of angry Trump supporters that converged on tabulation sites while counting was underway. The judge dismissed the challenge as moot given that 1) ballot counting in Michigan had already wrapped up by then; 2) Benson had granted a directive for “meaningful access” for poll watchers; and 3) most states have established processes to approve poll watchers in the first place since letting any random person off the street barge in would be absolute chaos—as Trump supporters demonstrated beautifully.
The Biden campaign declared victory on Saturday after a long-fought win in Pennsylvania put him over the 270 electoral vote threshold. He and his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, are expected to speak at 8 p.m. ET Saturday evening.