Recount Fight Continues Amid Conspiracy Theories
Money may not be enough to force recounts in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania—and experts and officials tell The Daily Beast they’ve seen no evidence of fraud.
While Trump launched a tweetstorm about accusations that he hadn’t won fair and square (“In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally”), Stein raised $6.3 million over the weekend to fund possible recounts in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, the three states where Trump’s margin of victory over Hillary Clinton was the smallest. If the results in those states were overturned, their combined electoral votes would swing the election to Clinton. But in public statements and in interviews with The Daily Beast, no local officials or elections experts of either party could say they’ve seen proof of anything that would put their state’s results in doubt.
On Monday, Stein won her attempt to force a recount in Wisconsin, where Trump beat Clinton by 22,177 votes. The Wisconsin Elections Commission announced it would greenlight a statewide recount, as long as Stein pays for it, but refused to order the recount by hand, as Stein requested. At a press conference Monday, local officials said they had not had any reports of hacking or suspected fraud on Election Day.
“There are a number of reasons why we’re skeptical of any claims that voting equipment is either not working properly or being tampered with in the state of Wisconsin,” said Michael Hass, the commission administrator.
The commission’s Democratic chairman, Mark Thomsen, accused Trump of feeding conspiracy theories with his tweets about millions of illegal votes being cast across the country.
“Personally, I would like him to come down out of his Trump Tower and… spend the time with the folks on the ground who are counting these votes,” Thomsen said. “To say that it’s not being fair or that people are counting illegal votes, from my vantage point, is an insult to the people that run our elections.”
Despite his clear frustration with Trump’s tweets, Thomsen said he fully expects Trump to remain the president-elect. “I think ultimately at the end of the day the count is going to be the same.”
A progressive activist in Wisconsin who wanted to see Clinton elected as much as anyone said he also heard nothing about possible irregularities until Stein’s recount petition. “I didn’t hear anything specific on Election Day,” he said. “There’s always reports of stuff, but nothing hugely out of the ordinary this year.”
The Wisconsin recount will begin Thursday and is expected to be finished by Dec. 13, but it’s not clear that Stein will get a recount in Pennsylvania, where she filed a lawsuit Monday to force one after an attempt failed to mount voter-initiated recounts in more than a handful of the state’s 9,000-plus voting districts. State law now requires that Stein show a possibility of widespread voter fraud in the state in order to warrant a recount, since Trump won the state by about 1.2 percent, well over the 0.5 percent that would trigger an automatic recount.
In her filing, Stein alleged that the Pennsylvania election results are illegal and said they should be thrown out. But a Democratic elections expert in Pennsylvania who asked to speak anonymously called Stein’s petition “very bare bones” and predicted it wouldn’t go far since no reports of widespread voting problems have surfaced anywhere in the state since Election Day. “Nothing happened on the election that that I’m aware of.”
Stein may have better luck in Michigan, where state officials certified Trump as the official winner on Monday afternoon. Stein said that by Wednesday she will officially challenge the results in the state, where Trump won by 10,704 votes of 4.8 million cast. An official with the Michigan Bureau of Elections said a recount will likely start by the end of the week, with a goal of completing it by Dec. 13.
Stein’s efforts are getting pushback from the Obama administration, which has insisted throughout the year that the elections would be safe and reliable, especially as Trump warned that rigged elections could cost him the White House. Late week, an administration official told Politico, “The federal government did not observe any increased level of malicious cyberactivity aimed at disrupting our electoral process on Election Day. We believe our elections were free and fair from a cybersecurity perspective.”
In all three recount requests, Stein includes a report by J. Alex Halderman, a computer-science professor at the University of Michigan, to portray the country’s elections systems as vulnerable to hacking. But in a post on Medium, even Halderman seemed to throw cold water on the idea that the systems actually were hacked.
“Were this year’s deviations from pre-election polls the results of a cyberattack?” he wrote. “Probably not.”