This past Friday, after a weeklong fundraising effort and an estimated $5 million donated, Jill Stein filed for a petition to recount the vote in the state of Wisconsin. That was followed today by recount petitions in the state of Pennsylvania on Stein’s behalf. The recount movement began after a piece was published in New York magazine the week before, detailing how several cybersecurity experts had allegedly approached the Clinton campaign and urged her to consider petitioning for recounts in three key swing states won by Donald Trump (Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan). According to the article, the analysts examined voting patterns and how the votes were cast and found some startling inconsistencies – for example, in Wisconsin Clinton gained 7 percent fewer votes in counties that used electronic voting as opposed to counties with paper ballots which could have cost her roughly 30,000 votes (and she only lost Wisconsin by 27,000 votes). While none of the experts directly cited Russian-based hackers as a potential threat, the recent Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee certainly made them nervous about possible election hacking (and others have stressed that the likelihood of a hack was minuscule at best). The deadline to file for a recount in Wisconsin was Friday and the Stein camp was just able to meet it, along with Pennsylvania’s recount deadline today.
After Stein initially announced her intentions to challenge the results in those three states, the Clinton camp stayed silent until after the recount petition was officially filed in Wisconsin Friday, when members of Clinton’s top circle (not the candidate herself, who is still taking a much needed vacation in Rhode Island) said that they would support it and the subsequent recount efforts in Pennsylvania and Michigan to “ensure the process proceeds in a manner that is fair to all sides,” according to Marc Elias, a campaign lawyer for Clinton. It’s no secret that many of Clinton’s aides are still very bitter about the surprise electoral college results that provided Donald Trump with the election despite the fact that Clinton won the nation’s popular vote by over 2 million votes. But the fact that solely these three key states are in question for possible election fraud lends more weight to the challengers, because if the results were all found to be in favor of Clinton rather than Trump she would win the electoral college. Currently Trump has 290 electoral votes, compared to 232 for Clinton (not including Michigan whose race is still too close to call). If Michigan’s 16 votes go to Clinton, and then Pennsylvania and Wisconsin with 20 and 10 electoral votes respectively, that will bump Clinton up to 278, just putting her over the electoral college threshold needed to win.
Complicating matters further is the fact that Trump himself claimed frequently in the weeks leading up to the election that the voting system was ‘rigged,’ perhaps anticipating as the media had that Clinton would easily cinch the electoral college. After the Wisconsin recount effort came to pass on Friday, Trump began a rant on Twitter, alleging that in fact he had probably won the popular vote as well but that due to illegal immigrant voter fraud in key states that Clinton won (Virginia, New Hampshire and California) the popular vote was given to Clinton. While simply continuing his theme of widespread election corruption, Trump himself appears to be unsure that the results were 100 percent accurate, although he condemned Stein and Clinton’s recount efforts.
Surprisingly enough, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders dismissed the recount effort as a Green Party initiative not supported by Democrats on Sunday in an interview on ABC’s This Week. Even after acknowledging that the Clinton camp had signed on to the effort, Sanders said it was highly unlikely anything would change the election outcome:
“We will see what happens. It’s a legal right. It’s not a big deal. I don’t think anybody, Secretary Clinton or anybody else, thinks that there’s going to be profound changes.”