Investigation finds suspected vote manipulation in Kingstonist municipal election poll

A Kingstonist investigation into one of its poll’s records has found suspected attempts to skew its results.

A Kingstonist investigation into one of its recent online polls has revealed what we believe are attempts to manipulate results with fake votes. Our investigation was initiated on October 8th after Kingstonist administration and readers observed what appeared to be unusual activity in the poll. It was completed on October 10th after a full review of the affected poll’s records.

As a result of the review, Kingstonist believes that at least 127 of the votes tallied in the “Who will get your vote for councillor in the upcoming election?” poll are highly likely to be fraudulent. Those votes affected the results of 5 candidates: Byron Emmons, Taylor Pearce, Dylan Chenier, Cheryl-Anne Dorey Bennett, and Don Amos. The vast majority of the suspect votes were in favour of Byron Emmons, who received nearly 50% of the suspect votes. Kingstonist does not allege that any of the candidates knew of, nor were involved in, the suspected vote manipulation.

The suspicious votes were made by making use of a technique called “IP address spoofing,” which uses a proxy server, allowing a user to hide their true location and fake their computer’s identity, circumventing some of the security measures taken in our polling. While, as expected, most of the poll votes were made from IP addresses identifiably in the Kingston area, many of the suspect votes appeared to have international IP addresses, from such countries as Australia, Germany, Russia and Italy. Others had IP addresses which could not immediately be pinpointed geographically. For the purposes of our investigation, we concentrated on those votes which were most egregiously suspect.

Kingstonist polls use both “server-side” and “client-side” security measures, such as IP address logging and the use of cookies, to prevent vote manipulation. For our generally-casual polling, those measures are generally sufficient, and Kingstonist always makes clear that our polling is informal and has significant limitations that would preclude it from being used in any scientifically-predictive sense. Nonetheless, for more serious surveys such as our informal election polls, Kingstonist takes additional oversight measures. As a result of that oversight, we found 4 distinct instances of attempted vote manipulation over the course of 4 days.

The first instance of suspected fraudulent voting occurred on October 5th, when candidates Byron Emmons, Dylan Chenier and Taylor Pearce received a smattering of votes from what we believe to be illegitimate IP addresses. Byron Emmons also received a small number of suspicious votes on October 6th, and then again on October 7th.

The glut of the suspect voting occurred on October 8th, when the suspect(s) appear to have cycled through voting in favour of all 5 affected candidates between the hours of 8:30 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. During that time, over 100 suspicious votes were distributed among all 5 of the affected candidates over a 3-hour period.

Kingstonist has closed the affected poll in order to scrub the suspicious votes and will publish the poll results once it has been corrected.

A review of a concurrent and related poll, “Who will get your vote for Mayor in the upcoming election?”, found no attempted tampering in those results.

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