The Grand Recount

Voting_in_Hackney Brad Bennion

Although election day in the U.S. has come and gone, uncertainty over the election’s results is beginning to mount. Following Donald Trump’s surprising victory, experts from the National Voting Rights Institute noticed a peculiar trend—Trump performed significantly better in Wisconsin counties that used electronic voting systems. Furthermore, in Michigan and Pennsylvania, an increasing number of blanks ballots were being received by voting authorities. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton’s popular vote lead has continued to climb, such that she now leads by roughly 2.5 million votes. Driven by these anomalies, a group of experts demanded that an immediate audit of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan be conducted.

On Nov. 26, Clinton’s campaign decided to support these efforts in Wisconsin.

In the United States, voting regulations stipulate that recounts can only be requested by those who appeared on the presidential ballot. Notorious for her willingness to fight for social justice, Jill Stein of the Green Party chose to spearhead the movement. Thus far, Stein has raised nearly $6.5 million for the efforts (a live view can be found here), which funded the $3.5 million in fees required for the recount in Wisconsin. Despite her success, Stein is facing tremendous hurdles in Michigan and Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania:

Although each state participates in the electoral college system, there is a huge amount of freedom allotted to each state with regards to election guidelines. Recounts fall into this category. In Pennsylvania, the “automatic trigger” for a statewide recount is a margin of 0.5 percent. With approximately 5 million PA voters this year, that margin is equivalent to 30,000 votes. Earlier this week, Philadelphia finished counting its votes, which included absentee ballots that were impossible to count earlier. Once these additional votes were accounted for, the gap between Clinton and Trump lessened to 46,000 votes, which is a difference of 0.8 percent. In other words, voting officials in Pennsylvania are arguing over a margin of 16,000 votes. Nonetheless, Jill Stein is continuing to urge authorities to conduct a recount of these votes. As Politico reported, “To initiate a statewide recount…the Stein campaign must sufficiently prove that there was a strong probability of election fraud in Pennsylvania.” While her lawyers appeared in court on Monday, questions regarding the appeal’s submission date are being raised. Therefore, it appears unlikely that Pennsylvania will approve Stein’s request to recount votes state-wide.

Michigan:

Similar to Pennsylvania, Michigan has represented an enormous challenge for Stein’s movement. On Monday, efforts to recount votes were halted by a court following an appeal filed by Trump’s campaign. Michigan, which recently certified Trump as the winner with a mere 10,000 votes more than Clinton, has been a target of Stein’s campaign. Although a reversal of the state wouldn’t change the election’s outcome, it would be a significant blow to Trump. However, according to the Daily Dot, “Under Michigan law, the recount is halted until the Board…resolves the objection. […] If the board adopts the objection, the recount would be ended.” Trump’s complaint, which asserts that Stein is putting Michigan at risk of not having its votes counted, actually has significant legal footing. With the Electoral College voting on Dec. 19, state officials would have relatively little time to recount the votes. And herein lies the problem—state officials in Pennsylvania and Michigan are worried about cost and timeframe. When the electoral college meets, each state needs to present their certified results, which are reported by Dec. 12. If certified results are not reported, then the entire state cannot be included. This could create political upheaval in Michigan, which is something that voting officials will likely be wary of when considering Stein’s request.

Wisconsin

Perhaps the only state receptive of the recount movement, Wisconsin has already begun efforts to recount votes from the 2016 election. As the New York Times reported, “For the next 12 days, election officials across all 72 counties in Wisconsin will work days, nights and weekends to recount nearly three million ballots.” Joining this effort is Clinton, who declared support on Wednesday, Nov. 30. While one Dane County circuit court in Wisconsin denied Stein’s request to have all ballots recounted exclusively by hand, the efforts will continue unabated. Nonetheless, it’s highly unlikely that the decision will be reversed in a state that Trump won by 22,000 votes. According to the lead lawyer for Clinton, Marc Elias, there has never been a successful overturn of a lead that significant. Officials in Wisconsin will have less than two weeks to report their findings.

Indeed, while Wisconsin has agreed to allocate resources toward recounting the votes, the likelihood that Michigan and Pennsylvania will join suit is unlikely. Moreover, as Clinton’s own lawyer for the case admitted, the chance of overturning the election is quite slim. Trump’s campaign, which reacted furiously to the recount announcement, has accused those involved of being “crybabies.” Yet, this brings about a curious question: if the roles were reversed, would Trump simply accept the results of the election? Admittedly, Trump himself stated that he wouldn’t accept the outcome of the election if Clinton won. Stein hopes to capitalize on this question; however, with the Dec. 12 deadline looming, the odds of reversing the 2016 election results are becoming increasingly unlikely.