The Green Party’s presidential recounts in the three states that gave Donald Trump his Electoral College majority made halting progress Wednesday. As the party formally filed for a recount in Michigan, Wisconsin Republicans filed a federal complaint against the Green Party and Hillary Clinton’s campaign, and a suburban Philadelphia judge shut down a recount in his county. Meanwhile, organizers on the ground in all of these states are scurrying to recruit and train observers for the next stage of the process, which varies from watching county election officials hand-count ballots in Michigan, use a mix of hand counts and scanners in Wisconsin, and keep filing citizen petitions for precinct-level recounts in Pennsylvania.
Jill Stein, the Green Party’s presidential candidate, filed a petition for a recount in Michigan on Wednesday, after a state board overseeing election results certified that Donald Trump won the state’s race by 10,704 votes, or a margin of just 0.22 percent of the 4.7 million votes cast. The Greens paid a $973,250 filing fee for a recount that is expected to start on Friday.
The state will hand-count these ballots, which is the standard Stein and a cadre of computer scientists and election experts say is the most accurate way to verify the results. That’s because the high-speed scanners used in Michigan (and much of Wisconsin) can misread ballots and are vulnerable to hackers seeking to adjust vote totals. After Election Day, for example, “there were 75,335 under-count tallies—votes that machines did not record as selecting anyone for president—nearly double the amount recorded in 2012,” the Greens’ press release said.
PROFESSOR OF COMPUTER SCIENCE
“America’s voting machines and optical scanners are prone to errors and susceptible to outside manipulation,” said J. Alex Halderman, a professor of computer science at the University of Michigan who has helped the Greens by filing legal statements supporting a hand count.
“Paper ballots, like those used in Michigan’s elections, are the best defense we have against cyberattacks, but that defense is only effective if we actually look at the paper trail after the election,” he said Wednesday. “That’s precisely why we need this recount—to examine the physical evidence, to look under the hood. A recount is the best way, and indeed the only way in 2016, to ensure public confidence that the results are accurate, authentic and untainted by outside interference.”
The official recount will begin Thursday, where Trump leads Clinton by 22,177 votes. County election offices have the discretion to decide if they will use hand counts or electronic scanners for paper ballots, a state judge ruled Tuesday. She rejected the Greens’ arguments backing hand counts, including the testimony from another half-dozen computer scientists like Halderman. The most notable testimony concerned how scanners misread ballots, she said, specifically how the standard error rate, when multiplied against the 2.9 million votes cast in Wisconsin’s presidential election, added up to more votes than Trump’s margin of victory.
Dane County Circuit Court Judge Valerie Bailey-Rihn said there were good reasons to do a hand recount but no legal basis for her to mandate it. “I follow the law. That’s who I am despite my personal opinions… It’s (the counties’) decision. It’s their discretion. I may disagree with it … but I must follow the law.”
The Keystone state continues to be the steepest climb for a recount. The deadline for a state-ordered recount has passed, leaving the Greens with the monumental task of getting three voters in each of the state’s 9,163 precincts to sign and submit recount petitions to their county election office. The window for those citizen petitions is narrow and closing across the state.
As of Wednesday, they were mostly focusing on six of the largest counties, “which together comprise 3.45 million voters (or 40 percent of the state’s registered voters),” they said. “Since Monday, concerned voters have filed more than 780 petitions in more than 304 election districts in Allegheny, Berks, Bucks, Centre, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties. These are some of the most vote-rich counties in the state.”
While hundreds of people answered the Greens’ call for volunteers to help gather and submit the petitions, a judge in Montgomery County, outside Philadelphia, rejected citizen petitions for 72 of the county’s precincts Wednesday. Judge Bernard A. Moore offered “no reason for his ruling,” Philly.com said, saying local election officials and Republicans oppose a recount.
The Stein campaign has a pending lawsuit in state court seeking a statewide recount. But that suit says the party wants to wait and see how the citizen petition process unfolds before going before a judge.
In the meantime, the Green Party, which has raised $6.7 million from 144,000 people, with average donations of $44, has increased its fundraising goal to $9.5 million for the recounts. That sum keeps on growing because the state election agencies are charging the party several times what was originally estimated for the recount.
To an outsider, it looks as if there are too many obstacles in the way of getting a recount – the fees keep going up, and judges keep making decisions that hinder not help the recount. If it is this hard to get a recount of the votes, why does anyone believe that the votes were handled correctly in the first time?