Center for Electoral Forensics

A Look Back at Clinton-Trump

[US Flag]The 58th presidential election of the United States was held on Tuesday, November 8, 2016. A few weeks before the election, candidate Donald Trump was behind in the polls. On October 17, 2016, Trump tweeted: "Of course there is large scale voter fraud happening on and before election day."

This article is going to provide some background to the 2016 US Presidential election and start looking at answering Trump's question: Was there significant electoral fraud?

President Donald J. Trump

President Donald J. Trump

In the United States, multiple parties present candidates for the presidency. Regardless, each election tends t be between just two candidates: one from the Democratic Party and one from the Republican Party. The election of 216 was no exception. While the Libertarian, Green, Constitution, Socialist, and Reform parties had candidates in the election, the race was between Clinton, the Democratic candidate, and Trump, the Republican candidate.

As a result of the election, Donald Trump took office as the 45th President on January 20, 2017.

The Issues of 2017

Many issues separated the top two candidates. Some of those issues were of substance. Among the number of issues that were discussed during the elections, the followings are the few key points that the opinions between the Clinton and Trump dramatically differed: immigration, gun control, LGBT rights, energy and environments, healthcare, and criminal justice.

For immigration, Clinton mentioned "If Congress refuses to act, as president I would do everything possible under the law to go even further [than President Obama]" while Trump said "If Congress refuses to act, as president I would do everything possible under the law to go even further [than President Obama]," which upset and terrified a lot of people especially the immigrants.

About LGBT rights, Clinton said "No future generation of LGBT Americans should live in a country that doesn’t embrace their full and equal rights," while Trump mentioned "I live in New York. I know many, many gay people. Tremendous people." He also made clear that he does not support same sex marriages and that also became a huge point among the nation.

And lastly for energy and the environment, Clinton said "I won’t let anyone take us backward, deny our economy the benefits of harnessing a clean energy future, or force our children to endure the catastrophe that would result from unchecked climate change," while Trump said "This very expensive global warming bullshit has to stop."

In addition to these policy issues, the candidates offered their own issues: Clinton' e-mail and Trump's locker room.

Clinton: E-mails

Shortly before she was sworn in as Secretary of State in 2009, Hillary Clinton set up an e-mail server at her home in Chappaqua, New York. She then relied on this server for all her electronic correspondence — both work-related and personal — during her four years in office.

She also reportedly set up e-mail addresses on the server for her long-time aide, Huma Abedin, and State Department Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills. She did not use, or even activate, a e-mail account, which would have been hosted on servers owned and managed by the US government.

Trump: Locker Rooms

The video that captured Trump talking with Billy Bush, then of "Access Hollywood," on a bus was released in October, 2016. In the video, Donald Trump bragged in vulgar terms about kissing, groping and trying to have sex with women during a 2005 conversation caught on a hot microphone, saying that "when you're a star, they let you do it," according to a video obtained by The Washington Post. In addition to that, there are over 15 women who accused Donald Trump of sexual assault. One of those women, Kristin Anderson says she was out at a Manhattan nightclub with friends, sitting on a red velvet couch, when she felt Trump reach into her skirt and touch her vagina through her underwear. Even his ex-wife, Ivana Trump mentions that she was forced to have sex with him when she did not want to.

The Electoral College

The United States has presidential elections quadrennially. It is not the national popular vote, however, that elects the president. It is the Electoral College, whose members are elected by popular vote at the state level. Thus, to say that there is an election for the presidency every four years is true, but misleading. There are actually 51 separate elections for those Electors.

Each state is able to elect a number of Electors equal to its Congressional representation. Thus, it is based on both the population in the state and the fact that it is a state. The District of Columbia has three Electors, even though it is not a state. The voters go to the polls on the first Tuesday after the first Monday of November to elect the Electors.

The Electors, as representatives of their states, then meet in their statehouses on the first Monday after the second Wednesday of December. The time difference allows the votes to be counted and certified by each state. While there is no constitutional requirement for the Electors to vote as their state voted, several states have laws requiring it.

In this election, each state either had a majority of the votes for Clinton or for Trump. However, not all electors cast their ballots for Clinton or Trump. In fact, of the 538 electoral votes cast, seven were cast for different candidates: 3 for Colin Powell, and 1 each for Faith Spotted Eagle, John Kasich, Ron Paul, and Bernie Sanders. This is a record for the number of so-called faithless electors.


While Clinton received about 2.9 million more votes nationwide, a margin of 2.1%, Trump won 30 states worth a total of 306 electors, or 57% of the 538 available.
He won the four perennial swing states of Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, and Iowa (only North Carolina was won by Romney in 2012), as well as the three "blue wall" stronghold states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, which had not been won by a Republican presidential candidate in decades.

[support map for Clinton]

Support map for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 US presidential election. This map emphasizes the differences in how the states voted. Blue states went for Clinton, while red states went for Trump.

In the Electoral College vote on December 19, seven electors voted against their pledged candidates: two against Trump and five against Clinton. A further three electors attempted to vote against Clinton but were either replaced or forced to vote again. Ultimately, Trump received 304 electoral votes and Clinton garnered 227.

Trump is only the fifth person in US history to become president while losing the nationwide popular vote.

[support for Clinton]

Support map for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 US presidential election. This map emphasizes that each candidate had support in each state, that there was little difference across the United States.

The Benford Tests

The Benford Test is one of the tests to identify if there was a fraud in the election. Its use is controversial, since it makes the assumption that vote counts in free and fair elections follow a log-uniform distribution. This is highly suspect.

Using the Benford distribution and the chi-square goodness-of-fit test both for the leading digit and for the second digit reveal no evidence of fraud. For the votes that Trump received in 2016 election, the first digit test shows the p-value of 0.2705 and the second digit test shows the p-value of 0.2815. Both of them are rather large, especially compared to the usual α value of 0.05. As such, we cannot reject null hypothesis: there is no evidence that the leading digits or the second digits violate Benford's Law.


This article gave a brief overview of the 2016 US Presidential election, including a look at the issues surrounding the election as well as how the United States actually elects its president. We also looked to see if there was evidence of fraud in the 2016 United States Presidential Election, since Trump tweeted on October 17, 2016 that there is a huge voter fraud in this election.

To detect the election fraud, the Benford tests were performed on the votes that Trump received in each of the 50 states + the District of Columbia. For neither the leading digit nor the second digit test was there evidence to support the assertion that there was fraud in this election.



Leave a Reply