The Antrim County 2020 Election Incident: An Independent Forensic Investigation

Authors: 

J. Alex Halderman, University of Michigan

Distinguished Paper Award Winner

Abstract: 

In November 2020, Antrim County, Michigan published unofficial election results that misstated totals in the presidential race and other contests by up to several thousand votes. Antrim subsequently issued a series of corrections, and the certified presidential results were confirmed by a hand count. Nevertheless, Antrim was repeatedly cited by the former President as evidence of widespread fraud, and it remains a centerpiece of conspiracy theories about the 2020 election. At the request of the Michigan Secretary of State and Attorney General, I performed a forensic investigation of the incident. Using data from the election system, I precisely reproduce the major anomalies, explain their cause, and verify they have been corrected. However, I also uncover other errors affecting specific down-ballot contests that have not been corrected, despite the unusual attention focused on the results, one of which may have changed the outcome of a local contest. Based on this analysis, I refute false claims and disinformation about the incident, concluding that it was not the result of a security breach but rather a series of operator errors compounded by inadequate procedures and insufficiently defensive software design. These events offer lessons for election administration and highlight the value of rigorously investigating election technology incidents for enhancing accuracy and public trust.

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BibTeX
@inproceedings {281402,
author = {J. Alex Halderman},
title = {The Antrim County 2020 Election Incident: An Independent Forensic Investigation},
booktitle = {31st USENIX Security Symposium (USENIX Security 22)},
year = {2022},
isbn = {978-1-939133-31-1},
address = {Boston, MA},
pages = {589--605},
url = {https://www.usenix.org/conference/usenixsecurity22/presentation/halderman},
publisher = {USENIX Association},
month = aug,
}