Donald Trump stunned Americans when he refused to say whether or not he would accept the results of the election in November during the final debate.
Trump could very well believe that if Clinton wins the election, it is because the election systems have been rigged. But after some research, we can say that having a rigged election is incredibly unlikely.
To understand the threat to the election, it’s important to know that none of the in-person voting machines that we use are connected to the internet. Therefore a threat to our voting machines could not come from a third party. It would have to be an inside job.
Michael McDonald, an associate professor at the University of Florida, argues that the only way the election results could be rigged is because of malicious code in the machines.
“Not to say that it’s impossible to hack an election outcome,” McDonald told Business Insider. “But in order to do something like that you’d probably have to be physically present, manipulate the machines somehow, and inject code into them. These machines are in secure locations so it would really have to be an inside job.”
So let’s say that some jurisdictions did vote on rigged machines. What happens then?
While a projected winner of the election will likely be announced on the evening of November 8th, election officials also start the procedure of certification, where a canvassing board verifies the election results.
“The election officials are making sure that everything worked properly,” McDonald said. “They are looking through the sorts of errors that can happen, whether human error or a machine error or something of that nature.”
It is also important to note that because election officials have come to expect certain problems, they are trained to catch mistakes throughout election day: “Elections are essentially a human event. You have tens of thousands of humans with some degree of training that come together for this event, and they make mistakes,” said Merle King, who worked at The Center for Elections Systems at Kennesaw State University.
While no election will ever run without glitches and hiccups along the way, for an election to be successfully hacked with malicious intent, a person not only needs to know how to alter the code of the machines, but also know how to alter it in a way that would not be easily discovered and flagged in post-election audits.
“In this election one of the biggest concerns is the undermining of confidence in the outcome of the election,” said Merle King. “And in every election, there’s going to a loser of that election.”