Fact Check: DIY Vote Analysis Does NOT Prove Arizona Votes Were 'Eaten From Mr. Trump And Handed Over To Mr. Biden'

Fact Check

  • by: Dean Miller
Fact Check: DIY Vote Analysis Does NOT Prove Arizona Votes Were 'Eaten From Mr. Trump And Handed Over To Mr. Biden' Faulty premise

Did a Massachusetts engineer prove election software took Maricopa County, Arizona, votes from Donald Trump to give them to Joe Biden? No, that's not true. A Maricopa County Superior Court judge on December 4, 2020, rejected Trump's challenge to election results there, saying the president's lawyers failed to present evidence of fraud, misconduct, erroneous tallies or illegal votes in Maricopa's results. The engineer's analysis ignores the well-documented defection of registered Republican voters in Arizona in 2020 and long-standing patterns of independent behavior by voters in that state, say a University of Arizona political scientist and a veteran Arizona campaign consultant/pollster.

The claim originated in a video posted to YouTube on December 2, 2020 titled "130% Mr Biden, -30% Mr Trump" (archived here) which was captioned:

Data scientist presents unusual findings of vote counts in Arizona. Dr. Shiva Ayyadurai, an MIT scientist testified in the Arizona hearing to present his findings on election anomaly in Arizona...He presented detailed graphs and a summary of potential voter fraud in Arizona through this algorithm. Here are the collection of key points during his presentation.

Click below to watch the video on YouTube:

In his presentation at a November 30, 2020, meeting of Arizona Republican legislators at a hotel in Phoenix, Shiva Ayyadurai showed how he graphed Trump and Biden vote tallies in Maricopa County in order from smallest to largest precincts. That, he said, delivered a pair of curves that are too consistent and reveal the hidden hand of corruption in election software. "There's documented features of the weighted race features, early as 2002," Shiva said of the state's election software. "It's enabling cheating. It's enabling one person not one vote, that's what the feature enables."

This is the second time Ayyadurai has promoted a conspiracy theory about election software, based on mathematical modeling. Lead Stories debunked false claims he made about Michigan votes stolen from Trump and given to Biden: "One-Hour 'Analysis' Of Election Results Does NOT Reveal Rigged Election Software In Michigan."

As in Michigan, Ayyadurai provides no real-world Arizona evidence to prove his hypothesis: neither affidavits from witnesses to computer tampering nor samples of malicious code nor discrepancies between precinct records and state totals, nor current documentation of the "weighted race" feature he claims was hidden in election software to rig elections.

"From everything we've run and the simulations we've run, it's highly implausible the pattern of voting we saw in Maricopa County," he said. Ayyadurai, who does not live in Arizona, said he found it "implausible" that the votes in Maricopa County precincts did not consistently correlate to voter registration. Ayyadurai then declared that vote theft is the best explanation for the fact that Trump did not perform as well as he, Ayyadurai, expected him to in heavily Republican precincts.

Looking at the mirror-image similarity of the slopes of the Trump and Biden lines on the graph he created, Addadurai says that of all the possible explanations, the best is that election software had been hacked to automatically turn 30% of Trump votes into Biden votes: "So basically votes were being eaten from Mr. Trump and handed over to Mr. Biden," Ayyadurai says at 5 minutes, 37 seconds into the video.

Both Arizona election experts contacted by Lead Stories found Ayyadurai's analysis lacking in sophistication.

Prof. Chris Weber is a political science Ph.D. who teaches research methods at the University of Arizona and runs his department's graduate programs. Weber has more than 10 years' experience doing statistical analysis of political and social science data. He watched the video of Ayyadurai's presentation and found Ayyadurai made false assumptions about the correlation between registration and voting.

A colleague of mine and I wrote a New York Times op-ed not long ago showing a non-trivial number of Republicans were likely to defect. We show and suggest that statewide, approximately 10% of Republicans indicated they would vote for Biden. (Ayyadurai's analysis) seems to neglect what actually happened, which is pretty deep-seated divisions within the party.

That's a significant change, Weber said. "The defection that's happened over the last 20 years has been on the left. We saw, really for the first time in recent memory, this process is now happening in the GOP as well...There are far more Republicans who report voting for Biden than there are Democrats who report voting for Trump."

Arizona Capital Times has more than once awarded Paul Bentz "Best Pollster" honors and he has 20 years experience as a pollster and consultant for Arizona political campaigns. He said Ayyurdai's mathematical model was built on an assumption that is not provable: that Arizona Republicans are party-line voters.

That's simply not true in Arizona. There's no polling or research to back that up.

He said Ayyurdai's assumptions about the behavior of independent voters are not based in reality, either. "It's a false assumption to assume Republicans are getting two-thirds of the independent vote," said Bentz, who is senior vice president/Research and Strategy at HighGround, a consulting firm that works for both parties and for organizations seeking voter approval of ballot initiatives.

Bentz said Ayyurdai's presentation at the Republican meeting ignored an uncomfortable-for-Republicans fact: "He's brushing aside the much more likely result, which is that independents abandoned Trump."

He said both parties pushed hard to register voters in 2020, winkling votes out of every area where support seemed strongest.

There's a reason why Trump was going to Bullhead City and to Goodyear and the places that he was going in the final weeks of the campaign here in Arizona. And that was to drive up margins in the dark red, heavily Republican areas because they knew they were behind in the metro areas. They knew they were trailing among Republican women...and that in some of the swing demographics, including independents, they weren't doing as well.

As for the claim that voting and vote-tallying software had been re-programmed to steal votes for Biden, Bentz wise-cracked that the Massachusetts engineer's conspiracy theory fails to account for the fact that the election-running Maricopa County Recorder, a Democrat like Biden, lost his own bid for re-election in 2020:

You'd think if there was someone gigging the machine that he might try to save his own job.

The federal Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) similarly dismisses claims by Ayyadurai and others who claim voting systems were hacked and software skewed. The agency has declared there were no instances of software manipulation in the 2020 presidential election.

Dominion Voting Systems, the software company that is the target of claims of vote manipulation, says in its online statement that conspiracy theories like this ignore how voting systems actually work. Citing CISA's affirmation, Dominion says it is "not possible for a bad actor to change election results without detection." Voting tallies are 100% auditable, the company reports.

Both Bentz and Weber said there was nothing suspicious or implausible about the Maricopa County voting arithmetic or patterns in 2020.

If interested in the findings of professional -- and peer-reviewed -- political analysts with expertise in Arizona, Ayyadurai could have read in October what Weber and his colleague's polling had found: "Why Would a Republican Vote Biden? Ask Arizonans." The survey research in that New York Times article would have cautioned Ayyadurai not to build a mathematical model so reliant on assumptions about Republican loyalty and Independent persuadability.

Weber said the other Arizona event that likely affected loyalty was former astronaut Mark Kelly, running as a Democrat. Kelly easily won, with even more Republican support than Biden, to fill the seat long held by the late Sen. John McCain, the war hero Republican Trump quarreled with and disrespected. McCain was shot down on a bombing run over Hanoi, captured and tortured and held in a prison camp for 5 and a half years.

Ayyadurai holds a Ph.D. in systems biology and master's and bachelor's degrees in engineering. He is an inventor/entrepreneur and two-time unsuccessful candidate for the U.S. Senate. Ayyadurai has challenged the outcome of his 2020 bid, saying he won, despite Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth tallies that show him with just 40% of the vote.

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  Dean Miller

Lead Stories staff writer Dean Miller has edited daily and weekly newspapers, worked as a reporter for more than a decade and is co-author of two non-fiction books. After a one-year Harvard Nieman Fellowship, he served as Director of Stony Brook University’s Center for News Literacy for six years. As Senior Vice President/Content at Connecticut Public Broadcasting, a dual licensee, he oversaw radio, TV and print journalists, and documentary producers. He moved west to teach journalism at Western Washington University, edit The Port Townsend Leader and write the twice-weekly Save The Free Press column for the Seattle Times. Miller won the 2007 national Mirror Award for news industry coverage and he led the team that won the 2005 Scripps Howard first amendment prize. 

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