Massachusetts Election Officials Fight Effort to Hand Count Ballots in 2016 Democratic Primary Lawsuit

Updated on June 8, 2018
Massachusetts State House
Massachusetts State House

(Notice: please do not reprint in full; excerpt and link.)

Election officials in three towns in Massachusetts, as well as the Massachusetts Secretary of State, have all filed motions opposing a demand by election integrity activists to hand count paper ballots in the 2016 Democratic primary contest between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Most ballots in Massachusetts are counted by machine. The towns seek to have the lawsuit dismissed on procedural grounds, a sign that the defendants intend to fight any public viewing or hand-counting of the ballots.


The towns and cities named are Cambridge, Worcester, and Williamstown. The author is a participant in the lawsuit.

Plaintiff's counter-motion opposing dismissal of the lawsuit reads:

"It is puzzling why there should be any objection to securing confidence in election results given evidence of substantial inaccuracies, which the defendant has not disputed. It is within the Secretary of the Commonwealth's law enforcement capacity to do just that, without a court order. Plaintiff asks the Court to deny motion to dismiss, and to allow the critical live issues presented to move forward."

The plaintiff argues that the issues are not moot, and still relevant, because the vote counting machines used in the primary will be the same ones used in the general election.

Election Justice Massachusetts (EJM) points out that, in towns and precincts where the paper ballots used in Massachusetts were counted by hand, Bernie Sanders won by nearly 18%, but in districts where the ballots were counted by optical scan machine, predominant throughout the state, Hillary Clinton won by about 1%. EJM contends that there is no good explanation for the discrepancy, and is asking that election integrity activists be allowed to do a hand count of the ballots in the selected towns in order to verify that the vote totals are correct.

EJM says that the ease of "hacking" this type of vote counting machine has been demonstrated by election integrity activists, who released a major report last summer, co-authored by the 100th president of the American Statistical Association. The report concludes that Bernie Sanders may have actually won the national count of pledged delegates in the Democratic primaries, were it not for "machine-flipping" of vote counts and other tactics employed to falsify election results.

Numerous film documentaries and demonstrations have shown how malicious interlopers, perhaps not even known to election officials, can alter vote tabulation results. In one documentary, "Hacking Democracy," released by HBO, an expert programs instructions into an optical scan machine's software to subtract votes from a candidate's total rather than add them. This can result in the winner becoming the loser, and the loser becoming the winner.

The demonstration from HBO's "Hacking Democracy" is below.

"Hacking Democracy" Hacking Demonstration

Last July, Election Justice USA, a national election integrity organization, released a report concluding that Bernie Sanders had lost as many as 184 pledged delegates to possible election fraud, which is commonly confused with "voter fraud," but which is different. In voter fraud, unqualified voters attempt to vote, or qualified voters attempt to vote more than once. In election fraud, state and local election officials themselves hold ultimate responsibility for a fraudulent vote count which benefits a candidate favored by persons either running, or having access to, vote counting machines. Experts testify that vote counting machines can be hacked into from afar without election officials even knowing it, through telecommunications network connections.

The Election Justice USA report, entitled "Democracy Lost: A Report on the Fatally Flawed 2016 Democratic Primaries," recommends that all future elections be conducted by hand counting paper ballots, where paper ballots are used, and that jurisdictions which do not use paper ballots begin to do so. Election integrity experts dispute the objection that hand counting would be unwieldy and unfeasible in large city settings, saying larger jurisdictions naturally have more manpower and financial resources. They say that all US jurisdictions should follow the example of hand counted districts such as Columbia County, New York.

All voting precincts across the US are of roughly similar size, averaging about 1,000 registered voters, with one in DC being the largest at 2,700 voters. Experts say when done at the precinct level hand counting, in public with observers, goes relatively quickly. After counting, they recommend all ballots be scanned as digital images and made available on DVD.

One of the co-authors of the report is Fritz Scheuren, a professor at George Washington University and the 100th president of the American Statistical Association.

States in which Election Justice USA found strong evidence of election fraud against Bernie Sanders are Alabama, California, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

The lawsuit now await the judge's ruling on the motions. After the initial filing, Election Justice Massachusetts linked forces with noted attorney and election integrity activist Cliff Arnebeck, who will now be representing the case.

Citizens interested in advancing legislation requiring hand counted paper ballot systems in their own states are invited by EJM to go to


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