Election snapshot: With election fairness increasingly disputed, local skeptic takes matters into his own hands

“It can undermine voter confidence if it’s perceived that the only mechanism for verifying the integrity of our election is some random guy under a tent,” an Olmsted Township trustee said.

On Election Day, one local election integrity skeptic, Matt Luceen, conducted an independent exit poll outside of an Olmsted Township polling location to “double-check” the results of the election.   

Luceen said he started to lose faith in U.S. election integrity after the 2016 and 2020 Democratic primaries for President of the United States, where, despite his and others’ support for Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, different Democratic candidates won the party’s nomination. Regardless of his apprehensions, he also said that he has no proof of the 2020 primary election not being fair.   

“I don’t know if I’m still a fan, but [Sanders] was filling stadiums. He was breaking donation records. He had the most people donating ever, so that should correlate to votes I think,” Luceen said.   

Riley Alton, an Olmsted Township Trustee and a legislative aide to Democratic State House Representative Bride Rose Sweeney, said he saw Luceen at the August primary while prepping for the Nov. 8 election. Alton said Luceen’s presence at polling places could have a negative effect on voter confidence.  

“It can undermine voter confidence if it’s perceived that the only mechanism for verifying the integrity of our election is some random guy under a tent,” Alton said.    

One self-identified Democratic voter that participated in Luceen’s exit poll told The Exponent that they did not know the poll was about election integrity. The voter, who wished to stay anonymous, said they did not believe there was any election fraud.   

“No, there’s not,” the voter said. “It’s ridiculous.”  

Seventy percent of respondents who voted for Donald Trump believed the reason President Joe Biden won the election was because of fraud and illegal voting, whereas only 2 percent of Biden voters believed the election results were because of those reasons. Luceen said he hates that election integrity has become a partisan issue and said that the media has done it purposefully by grouping together Covid-19 denial and election skepticism.  

At each polling location, election organizers attempt to staff an even number of Republicans and Democrats as poll workers, said Mike West, manager of the outreach department for the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections.   

Luceen said he wants more transparency, but he does trust the poll workers.   

“Just because you’re a Democrat or Republican that doesn’t mean you can’t be compromised,” Luceen said. “I feel like it’s part of the theater.”   

Luceen not only conducted an exit poll for this election, but also conducted an exit poll for the August primary. In the 2022 election, there were only 61 respondents to his poll, so Luceen said his exit poll will not prove anything.    

“The trouble was, nobody wanted to tell him anything because he was just a self-appointed exit poller,” West said.  West said exit pollers are required to conduct the polling 100 feet away from the entrance to the building where voting occurs, but only one company, Edison Research – which administers all exit polls used nationally by news networks ABC, CBS, CNN and NBC – is provided with badges from the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections, which West said is done to make the sanctioned pollsters look more official and trustworthy to voters than a random person.   

“I find it very suspect that we have companies doing this kind of thing, but there’s no people doing it,” Luceen said. “I already don’t trust corporations to get news. I don’t know that I trust them to present exit poll results accurately either.”    

While many Donald Trump supporters stormed the Capital on Jan. 6 with the belief that the election was stolen, Luceen said some Sander’s supporters were planning a march at the capital around the same time to protest Sanders’ loss in the 2020 primary. He said the events of Jan. 6 stopped some of the Sanders supporters from attending, but a few days after the riots, Luceen went to a protest and held a sign that read: “Count our votes by hand. End the Charade.”  

Out of this interest in election integrity, Luceen signed up to be a poll worker in the 2020 primary election. He said at that time, some voters asked him to hand-count their ballots, expressing skepticism over the computerized voting machines. Luceen works at a large software company and said his knowledge about software led to his skepticism over the ballot counting machines.   

“I’m pretty experienced with computers and software and security and all that junk,” Luceen said.  “So, I had a fair bit of skepticism coming into this already.”   

Although Luceen had no teammates performing exit polling at other precincts, he said he wants to expand his operation by first focusing on his website.  

“All that difficult kind of logistical work, I want to get that automated on the website,” Luceen said. “And then it’s time to spread the word I think and get people doing this.”