Weighing election fraud claims—again
MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell says there’s “100 percent proof” of President Joe Biden winning large numbers of fraudulent votes. Is there really?
Election fraud has become the conspiracy that won’t go away. Joe Biden may be the president of the United States, but many Americans still doubt he won the Nov. 3 election fair and square.
Earlier this month, MyPillow Inc. founder Mike Lindell produced and released a documentary-style video, “Absolute Proof,” that claims to show the 2020 U.S. presidential election was rife with fraud. In the two-hour video, Lindell—a professing Christian and ardent supporter of former President Donald Trump—presents an array of election fraud claims, ranging from vulnerabilities in voting machines to the hacking of U.S. election systems by Chinese agents.
The video quickly made rounds on social media. To summarize: Lindell maintains there were enough “questionable” votes in the 2020 election to enable Trump to win states like Michigan, Georgia, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin—and thus win a second term as president. Taking the role of program host, Lindell spends most of the two hours interviewing nine guests who dispute the election results or claim to have direct evidence of fraud. (On Monday, Dominion Voting Systems sued Lindell for what it said were false claims about its voting machines.)
The video’s claims might sound compelling to someone hearing them for the first time. For political conservatives who supported Donald Trump and remain suspicious of the November election results, Lindell’s video may seem like the news America was waiting for.
WORLD has reported on election fraud claims several times over the past three months (see the end of this article for several links). Such claims are so numerous, we’ve been unable to examine all of them—but Lindell’s video provides an opportunity to look at several in more detail.
For the most part, Lindell’s claims aren’t new. Journalists, public officials, and experts have already disputed or debunked much of the video’s purported evidence of fraud or foreign election interference.
We can’t address every claim in Lindell’s video in this short space. But here’s an examination of the major ones.
Did someone tamper with votes in Antrim County, Mich.?
In the video, Michigan attorney Matt DePerno told Lindell that a hand recount of ballots in Antrim County gave thousands of additional votes to Trump. As part of an ongoing lawsuit, DePerno said, independent investigators obtained permission to take forensic images of the voting machines. According to DePerno, the team found that election officials had failed to properly secure a vital thumb drive, that someone had deleted the ballot “adjudication log” at 11:03 p.m. on Nov. 4, and that the Dominion voting machines the county uses were logging a 68 percent error rate for ballots fed into the tabulator.
The team that conducted this investigation and reported its findings was Allied Security Operations Group, a Texas-based firm co-founded in 2017 by Russell Ramsland, a businessman and former Republican congressional candidate. Ramsland, who also appeared as a guest on Lindell’s video, signed the firm’s forensics report on Antrim County, although it’s not clear who else participated in his group’s research.
However, Michigan officials and other security experts have disputed ASOG’s report. Michigan Bureau of Elections Director Jonathan Brater called it a “series of unsupported conclusions.” Former U.S. Election Assistance Commission official Ryan Macias said the report’s conclusions were “false and misleading due to the fact that the entities reviewing the system lack knowledge and expertise in election technology.”
For example, in a technical statement, Macias explained the missing adjudication log by noting Antrim county did not use the necessary software to create adjudication logs in the first place: “All ballot adjudication … would have been conducted manually and therefore any logging of that process would have also been conducted manually (i.e., on a piece of paper).”
The Detroit Free Press reported that Ramsland’s claim of a 68 percent “error” rate in Antrim vote tabulators refers to the machine’s code settings, not necessarily erroneous ballots.
It’s true the original vote tally from Antrim County erroneously showed Joe Biden winning the county by 3,000 votes—before a correction showed the county flipping to Trump, who won it by 3,800 votes. But the mistaken tally was due to a Republican county clerk’s failure to update election software. Election officials soon discovered the mistake and fixed it. A bipartisan hand audit of ballots later confirmed the Dominion machine tabulations were accurate.
Ramsland’s election investigations have faced criticism before. In an affidavit cited by Rudy Giuliani, Ramsland in November wrote that voter tallies in 19 Michigan precincts suggested voter turnouts of more than 100 percent. But it turned out Ramsland’s affidavit was mistaken.
Did Joe Biden receive “injections” of votes?
Attorney Matt DePerno also showed Lindell a chart apparently showing the growing Republican and Democratic vote totals for Michigan as officials counted ballots on Election Day and the days following. The chart showed multiple spikes that seemingly indicated a jump in the tally of votes. (Biden ultimately won Michigan by 154,000 votes.)
“That looks like it was manipulated,” said Lindell, pointing to one of the spikes.
However, there’s a plausible explanation. Multiple states recorded jumps in vote tallies—and those jumps included votes for Trump, not just for Biden. As Reuters reported, a boost of votes can come when a high-population district reports its results—as when Milwaukee County, Wis., reported its 170,000 absentee votes. City residents tend to lean Democratic, and Milwaukee is no exception—its votes were mostly Democratic. Mail-in votes themselves also shifted Democratic this year: Due to the coronavirus pandemic, U.S. voters cast a record number of mail-in ballots (65 million), and Biden voters were almost twice as likely to vote by mail than Trump voters.
The chart DePerno showed had a curious feature, however: On the right side, it indicated that at 6:31 a.m. on Nov. 7—four days after the election—Joe Biden saw a boost of more than 54,000 votes, severely narrowing Trump’s lead in the state.
However, that chart is wrong: Media outlets were reporting Biden ahead of Trump by more than 120,000 votes as of Nov. 4. Also, even though the Michigan Secretary of State website showed increases in vote totals in the days following the election as officials finalized ballot counts, those increases weren’t game-changing: According to archived pages, the site showed Biden with 2,790,647 votes on Nov. 6 and 2,804,040 votes on Nov. 23, the day state officials certified the vote count. That’s a difference of 13,393 votes, not 54,000. (Trump’s vote total increased by 5,324 during the same period.)
The source of DePerno’s chart appears to be the website of former Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne, who published several such charts without giving details of how they were created. Byrne did not respond to my repeated requests for comment.
Did voting machines in the Massachusetts primaries steal votes from Republican candidate V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai?
V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai, another of Lindell’s guests, is a former Republican U.S. Senate candidate from Massachusetts. Ayyadurai has a history of making questionable claims, including his disputed assertion that he invented email.
Ayyadurai lost his Senate campaign primary race last September to fellow Republican Kevin O’Connor. But afterward, Ayyadurai claimed he had in fact won the primary race, saying his opponent won by “blatant election fraud.”
He told Lindell that, according to his mathematical calculations, Massachusetts multiplied his vote totals by 0.666 while multiplying his opponent’s vote total by 1.2. (He didn’t explain in detail how he arrived at those calculations.)
However, Ayyadurai has used similar mathematical arguments to claim election fraud occurred in other states, such as Georgia and Michigan. For example, he has said some Michigan districts should have seen more votes for Trump in November based on their proportions of party-line Republican voters. But Ayyadurai is not an elections expert, and others have disputed his claims in those cases.
In Lindell’s video, Ayyadurai also claimed Massachusetts broke federal election law by deleting ballot images—the images that tabulation machines create when scanning and counting the voter ballots.
However, as Reuters and the Associated Press both have reported, Massachusetts does not allow voter machines to store any images of ballots. Instead, the state keeps physical paper ballots in storage for at least 22 months, available in the event of a recount.
“There isn’t a credible allegation of fraud here, there’s just some confusion by a candidate about records-keeping requirements,” Nicholas Stephanopoulos, an election law expert at Harvard Law School, told Reuters.
Massachusetts officials also pointed out that Ayyadurai failed to file a challenge to the primary election results by the mandatory Sept. 4 deadline.
Did a Dominion voter machine worker see voter fraud in Michigan?
Lindell also interviewed Mellissa Carone, a contract employee for Dominion Voting Systems who worked at the TCF Center in Detroit for 26 hours on Nov. 3 and 4. She told Lindell Dominion hired her “to assist with IT work” as Dominion machines counted ballots. She claimed that during the time she worked, she saw “thousands” of ballots but identified only votes for Joe Biden, and none for Donald Trump. She also claimed that the Dominion tabulating machines jammed repeatedly, prompting workers to run ballots through the machines again, which she said resulted in votes being counted more than once.
Carone filed an affidavit with her claims, which media widely reported. In December she testified before the Michigan House and Michigan Senate Oversight Committees, asserting without substantiation that Detroit had likely recorded 100,000 fraudulent votes and that 30,000 votes were counted multiple times. During one lively exchange with a Republican Rep. Steven Johnson, Carone repeatedly interrupted the legislator as he questioned her figures.
But election officials double-check the ballot totals using poll books, which list all the voters in an election. That enables officials to detect whether large numbers of ballots might have been counted twice. According to The Detroit News, Michigan election director Jonathan Brater affirmed in an affidavit that the number of ballots did not exceed the number of voters in Detroit. (In the same report, The Detroit News also rebutted Carone’s claim of 100,000 fraudulent votes.)
Assuming Carone only looked at individual ballots randomly throughout the day, it’s actually plausible she saw no Trump votes: Detroit voters in November were 95 percent Democratic.
In a letter threatening a lawsuit against Carone for her claims, Dominion wrote that she was hired by a temp agency for one day merely to “clean glass on machines and complete other menial tasks.” (Carone says she didn’t clean any glass but that her job description was “in IT support.”)
In a Nov. 13 ruling responding to a lawsuit filed by the Trump campaign, Wayne County Circuit Judge Timothy Kenny said Carone’s claims were unsupported by other witnesses. “Neither Republican nor Democratic challengers nor city officials substantiate her version of events,” he wrote. “The allegations simply are not credible.”
Do internet access logs show foreign governments hacking into U.S. election systems?
Near the end of the video, Lindell pipes in a phone call from Mary Fanning, whom the video identifies as a “National Intelligence Researcher and Author.” She presents what Lindell considers the most explosive evidence of all—a chart purportedly showing logs of foreign computers hacking into U.S. election systems during election week.
According to Fanning’s explanation of the chart, the logs show the IP addresses of foreign-owned computers attacking U.S. county election systems and stealing votes from Trump. Fanning says over 60 percent of the intruders were from China and says they stole thousands of Trump votes. She calls the chart “documentation of a cyberattack.” Fanning says she has access to “thousands of pages” of such logs.
But Fanning doesn’t identify the “cybersecurity experts” who collected the information or say how they collected it. For that, viewers have to go to The American Report, a conspiracy-theory-promoting website where she regularly writes.
There, in a Jan. 11 article, Fanning and co-author Alan Jones claim they have obtained exclusive data showing that computers in “China, Russia, Hong Kong, Germany, Canada, and the Czech Republic hacked into IP addresses in the battleground states of Pennsylvania, Nevada, Michigan and Georgia.” As a source of the info, they point readers to the website www.blxware.org. Until a few days ago, the Blxware site featured a prominent link pointing readers to a second site, www.electionrecords.com, whose homepage now returns an error message. (However, some pages that remain live include logs similar to the ones Fanning showed to Lindell.)
Neither www.blxware.org or www.electionrecords.com name the owner of the sites or explain where the purported log information came from, but archived versions of their webpages show footer fundraising links for a person named Dennis Montgomery, who claims his goal is to “expose the deep state” and its “illegal surveillance of millions of innocent Americans.”
Dennis Montgomery, a former CIA contractor, is a favorite topic at The American Report. Fanning and Jones have written multiple articles promoting his claims. They say Montgomery designed and built a foreign surveillance computer program for the Defense Department called “The Hammer,” along with a program known as “Scorecard” that functions as an “election theft cyberwarfare weapon.” According to The American Report, Montgomery now claims the Hammer and Scorecard were used to steal the 2020 election for Joe Biden using backdoor vulnerabilities built into Dominion Voting Systems equipment.
However, Chris Krebs, the former director of the Department of Defense’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, calls Hammer and Scorecard a “hoax.” And Dennis Montgomery is known for reportedly selling the CIA fraudulent technology after 9/11. The technology purported to detect secret Al Qaeda messages hidden in al Jazeera broadcasts.
I twice emailed contact addresses listed at both the Blxware and Election Records websites, asking who runs the sites and how that person collected the IP logs, but have not received any response. Fanning did not respond to an email sent through the American Report contact page.
Maarten Schenk of the fact-checking website Lead Stories has noted that the supposed foreign intrusion logs show several odd characteristics that suggest they are, in fact, a “crude forgery.”
Proof vs. proposition
WORLD has reported on various claims of election fraud since Nov. 3, including claims made within the first two weeks after the election. We also reported on the Trump campaign’s challenges to vote results in states like Pennsylvania and Georgia.
In some cases, evidence of what appeared to be suspicious activity later turned out to have a reasonable explanation—as when surveillance video showed vote counters pull containers of ballots from beneath a table and proceed to count them late at night in Atlanta. Georgia officials later said election workers had earlier placed those sealed ballot containers under the table in full view of election observers, who left when they mistakenly believed counting was done for the night.
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, stated in a letter to Congress: “Review of the entire surveillance tape by both law enforcement officers with my office and fact checkers has shown that no untoward activity took place.” (Raffensperger’s office is investigating a dispute about whether county workers told monitors to go home.)
Thus far, we haven’t found compelling evidence of fraudulent votes that could have tipped the election to Donald Trump. Other journalistic sources have also repeatedly investigated these claims and found them lacking.
Does that mean absolutely no fraud occurred? No. There were indeed confirmed cases: Texas prosecutors charged a social worker with over 100 counts of felony voter fraud for registering to vote 67 residents from an assisted living facility who had intellectual and developmental disabilities and could not consent. The Heritage Foundation has also kept a running list of voter fraud cases that resulted in criminal convictions. (In one such case, a Canton, Mich., resident forged his daughter’s signature on an absentee ballot.)
But these confirmed cases of fraud don’t involve enough votes to change the election outcome.
WORLD in November reported on how electronic voting systems like Dominion do have vulnerabilities, especially with regard to human errors, but paper ballot backups and audits provide means for double-checking the results. Former Attorney General William Barr said the Department of Justice didn’t find evidence to corroborate claims of rigged voting machines.
In summary, Lindell’s “Absolute Proof” video relies on unreliable “experts,” unsubstantiated charts, and questionable logs. Evidence from other witnesses and experts undermine or outright contradict several of the video’s main claims.
Truth matters, especially for Christians, no matter who you vote for. Exodus 23:1 commands, “You shall not spread a false report.” WORLD tries to follow the spirit of that verse by not quickly reporting claims of fraud that can’t be substantiated. When we do report unsubstantiated claims, we take care to label them as such.
God has tasked Christians with carrying the good news of the gospel to the world. Our credibility is important. We should investigate claims of fraud, yes, but avoid pushing theories that crumble under scrutiny.
—WORLD has updated this story to correct the amount by which V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai claimed Massachusetts multiplied his and his opponent’s vote totals in last September’s primary race.
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