During Sean Hannity’s Fox News show on Thursday night, he alleged that Dominion Voting Systems, a widely used vote-tabulating software company, was possibly responsible for errors in the vote count that cost President Trump votes. The segment was shared by Trump’s campaign:
And the president encouraged people to watch Hannity’s show:
Hannity gave examples from Michigan and Georgia, bringing up the miscount in Antrim County, Michigan, that led to counting Trump votes for Biden. As explained in past fact checks, the miscount was caused by “user human error” according to Michigan’s secretary of state, and it was corrected. Hannity also mentioned problems with Dominion machines experienced by poll workers in Georgia, who, during the primary elections, saw the machines blow fuses and freeze. No allegations of tabulation errors or software problems were made.
Hannity went on to cite the work of Princeton computer security expert, Dr. Andrew Appel, who expressed concerns about the security of Dominion’s ImageCast Evolution machine in congressional testimony in 2017 and in an article for website Freedom to Tinker in 2018. Hannity claimed that Appel’s work showed that Dominion could be used to “print more votes” on ballots.
Appel’s article expressed concern about the possibility of hacking a Dominion machine, but his criticisms were levied specifically against the Dominion ImageCast Evolution.
Appel’s criticism of the ImageCast Evolution was that in addition to the typical ballot-scanning capabilities, the machine can also mark ballots. The ballot-marking was included in the machine to assist voters with disabilities who can’t mark the ballot by hand. The vast majority of voters using the machine would still fill out a paper ballot and then feed it into the machine, but because the ballot is put into the same slot as the blank ballots filled out by disabled voters, all ballots are run through the same part of the machine that can apply ink to ballots. This could theoretically allow voters who required the ballot-marking assistance to have their ballots changed entirely, but in most cases, Appel told The Dispatch Fact Check, the risk is the possibility that hackers could “fill in extra bubbles in case of undervote.”
Because Hannity pointed to alleged irregularities in Georgia and Michigan and then cited Professor Appel’s testimony, viewers may have reasonably concluded that the machines Appel studied were used in Michigan or Georgia. According to a response to Hannity’s show Appel wrote, they were not. But even if the machine had been used in the states in question, Appel’s outline of how the ImageCast Evolution’s security vulnerability could be exploited does not align with what Hannity or others have alleged happened in the 2020 election.
As he explained in his article, if the software was compromised, hackers could potentially cast votes in races that voters left empty. It would not, however, be possible to change a vote that a voter had already filled in, as has been alleged to have occurred with Trump votes. (Appel told The Dispatch Fact Check that it would, however, be possible to effectively void a vote by filling in further bubbles within the same race.)
In his response to Hannity, Appel wrote that “it’s still true that, one way or another, the software in any voting machine can be (fraudulently) replaced — in any voting machine used in any of the 50 states.” However, he added: “The U.S. mostly uses paper ballots now, and that’s how we can trust the election results even though there are some computer vulnerabilities.”
Appel also noted that the clip of his congressional testimony shown by Hannity in which he describes a vote-stealing program he designed that could be installed in “7 minutes per machine with a screwdriver” doesn’t apply in the instances Hannity discussed either because his testimony “refers to an older Dominion voting machine, used in New Jersey, (though not this year because of the pandemic), but not used in Michigan and Georgia.”
Hannity claimed he was just asking questions by sharing this information, saying at one point: “Now, am I saying tonight this happened with Dominion in this cycle? No. How would I possibly know?” There is no evidence that Dominion is responsible for widespread voter fraud, nor that the election was stolen from Trump.
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Photograph by Gage Skidmore.