Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has raised the possibility of a “rigged” election in November, although it’s unclear how he meant the comment. The director of Homeland Security is talking about placing the country’s election infrastructure under the agency’s cybersecurity apparatus. The Internet is aflame with conspiracy theories. So how would somebody go about manipulating votes? The answer: With extraordinary difficulty. There are so many sets of eyes looking at the voting process, the machinery so locked up — literally locked up — that even the savviest hacker would have difficulty cracking the code. But the biggest barriers to election fraud may be a simple piece of paper, and humble precinct workers — who are paid barely above minimum wage, but are there out of a sense of old-fashioned patriotism and service and are hell bent on doing the job right.
I know something about the procedures because I’ve run exit polls and election night operations at one time or another for the Free Press, The Detroit News and each of Detroit’s television stations in every election but two since 1974.
First, there is the size of Michigan, which has more than 4,000 precincts. In 2014, for instance, my associates, Liz Lewis, Jim Bell and I sent workers to 80 precincts across the state to call us with results as soon as the numbers become available. I personally contacted every clerk’s office to make certain we could get results quickly. We were in 37 of Michigan’s 83 counties and 76 cities or townships. We had somebody in Hiawatha Township in the Upper Peninsula’s Schoolcraft County. We had somebody in Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church at West Grand Boulevard and Grand River on Detroit’s west side.
Even before the first vote is cast, the voting equipment is tested in an open forum to guarantee reliability. Anybody can attend. After the tests, the programming cards are locked inside the machine and sealed. Poll watchers from both political parties are usually there to watch. The serial numbers are closely held.