Recount FAQ

See more information about critical voting justice issues as well as links to some of the many groups working on them.

To read answers to past frequently asked questions from December 2016, please click here.



Why was a recount needed in the 2016 Presidential election?

The 2016 presidential recount was launched to address widespread concerns about the security and integrity of the 2016 presidential election. At the time, hacking was identified in several voter registration databases and suspected in the DNC and Podesta email scandals. Hacking scandals were also exploding in the world of business, finance, security, entertainment and more - including hacks against Yahoo, Netflix and the NSA. All of this raised concern for our elections because US voting machines are known to be highly susceptible to hacking.

In addition, exit polls diverged markedly from election results in many states. A variety of election monitoring organizations, including the US State Department, use this as a red flag for possible election tampering when assessing other countries’ elections. This is no less of a warning sign in our own country.

A group of election integrity experts contacted our campaign after reviewing the election results. Many of them had worked with the Green Party during the 2004 recounts in Ohio and New Mexico. They knew we had experience in presidential recounts and a history of standing up for voters’ right to just, secure and verified elections.

In this setting of growing concern about the accuracy and security of the 2016 vote, the recount was launched to obtain evidence to affirm or lay to rest these suspicions, and to verify whether the official results accurately reflected the will of the voters.  


Why were Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin chosen as the states in which to do the recount?

Three states - Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania - were identified as high risk for vote tampering on the basis of several criteria: the states all used voting machines that were very vulnerable to tampering; they all had extremely narrow margins of victory; and they had election results that conflicted with exit polls and pre-election polling.

The decision to conduct the recount was made independently by the campaign itself as the entity with legal standing and, in our view, the responsibility to do so.  

Voters in several states raised concerns about the integrity of the Democratic primary elections. Regrettably, we did not have legal standing to seek recounts in those elections. Only a candidate in the Democratic primaries would have had legal standing to challenge the integrity of the Democratic primary elections.


Can we trust that our votes are counted under the current election system?

The question we raised with the 2016 recount effort was simple: do we have an election system we can trust, that is accurate, secure and just? The answer was a resounding NO.

The recount revealed serious obstacles to just and secure voting, and in the recounts needed to safeguard those votes. That included out-of-date laws and recount procedures, politicized courts, machine failure and vulnerability, and flagrant racial inequities.

To put it simply, an un-recountable election is a blank check for fraud and malfeasance. It is a guarantee that election tampering cannot be detected. For that reason, we continue to fight - in legal battles, state administrative proceedings, through public educational forums and the media - for a voting system we can trust, that is accurate, secure and just.


Did the recount address voter suppression schemes like Interstate Crosscheck and voter ID laws?

Recounts are but one tool in the ongoing fight to build just and secure elections. Recounts are limited by the recount laws put in place by a political establishment generally seeking to maintain the status quo. Recounts do not address the range of voter suppression tactics used to disenfranchise vulnerable communities and keep millions of people from voting.

Voter suppression schemes include Voter ID laws that unjustly require voters to show official identification at the polls in order to cast a ballot. This creates a bureaucratic hurdle for disadvantaged groups less likely to have such identification, including people of color, ethnic minorities, low-income people, students, seniors and the disabled. Approximately thirty-four states currently have voter ID laws, which are estimated to block several million people from voting across the U.S. In the Wisconsin 2016 election, one study estimated the Voter ID law prevented 200,000 people, disproportionately African Americans, from voting.  

Voter ID laws are promoted as a supposed solution to the alleged problem of voter impersonation, a problem that numerous studies have shown to be almost nonexistent. These laws should be repealed or overturned in court, where several states’ Voter ID laws have been recently invalidated.

Interstate Crosscheck is another voter suppression scheme estimated to block millions of people from voting. It uses a database to identify voters potentially registered to vote in more than one state. Because it uses criteria that falsely identify duplicates, it largely removes legitimate voters from the rolls. One study found that purges by Interstate Crosscheck are wrong 99% of the time. Because people of color and ethnic minorities are over-represented in the Interstate Crosscheck database, it disproportionately disenfranchises these groups. Secretaries of State should be discouraged from using Interstate Crosscheck until it can be banned.

https://healthofstatedemocracies.org/factors/intercross.html

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/07/20/this-anti-voter-fraud-program-gets-it-wrong-over-99-of-the-time-the-gop-wants-to-take-it-nationwide/?utm_term=.35c1f416bfe2


Should we be concerned that our elections are vulnerable to cyber security breaches?

Yes. Election integrity advocates have demonstrated, with alarming ease, the vulnerability of our elections to cyber security breaches. See the testimony to Congress by Alex Halderman, Professor of Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Michigan.

At a 2017 cybersecurity conference, attendees were easily able to hack into 30 voting machines, many of which are commonly used in US elections - some of them within minutes.

In an age of commonplace computer security breaches - from the WannaCry ransomware attacks in the energy, healthcare, transportation and other sectors, to the Equifax hack into hundreds of millions of credit accounts - it's critical to secure our voting infrastructure. This should be part of a comprehensive reform agenda to create accurate, secure and just elections.


What happened with the recount effort in Michigan?

Michigan’s election showed an anomaly suggesting possible machine error or tampering: over 70,000 ballots cast that had no recorded vote for president. This number was about seven times the margin of difference between the two leading candidates. In addition, the margin of difference between the winner and runner up was only 0.2% - marking another red flag for possible error or tampering.

Despite these red flags, the Michigan recount was stopped by the courts within days of starting. Legal opposition to the recount was led by GOP operatives, who filed several lawsuits to block the recount.

Ultimately, the state court ruled that Stein did not have “standing”, claiming she was not a proper party to seek a recount under Michigan law because she did not come close enough to winning the election. This ruling was unfortunate because recounts should not be undertaken based on who calls for them. They should be conducted because they’re needed - as indicated by irregularities and tight margins. In the future, statistical audits should be used to verify election results, and point to any discrepancies that show when a recount is needed. Ultimately, it’s the voters - and our democracy - who benefit from having recounts, and elections we can believe in.

Despite the short duration of the Michigan recount, serious problems quickly surfaced that called the accuracy of results into question. In Detroit alone, a shocking 87 voting machines broke on Election Day, many jamming when voters fed ballots into optical scanners resulting in erroneous vote counts. Daniel Baxter, elections director for the city of Detroit, told the Detroit News that the discrepancies were due to the city’s decade-old voting machines, saying the situation was “not good.” These problems underscored the findings of a U.S. Civil Rights Commission report in 2000 that found voters of color are at greatly increased risk of having their votes misread or simply tossed out.

In spite of the obstructions, it is a victory for the recount and all who worked on it that in the aftermath of the recount, new voting machines are being purchased for the entire state.

The recount also brought to light bizarre rules that declare precincts ineligible for recounting if they have discrepancies between their vote count and the number of voters listed in their poll books. That means that the areas most in need of investigation are legally prevented from getting it - yet another example of how existing laws prevent verification of election results.


What happened with the recount effort in Pennsylvania?

Despite a citizen-led movement involving thousands of volunteers, the Pennsylvania recount effort was stopped by complex procedural requirements and politicized court decisions. The recount brought attention to this nightmare of bureaucracy and legal maneuvering by the state. It also focused attention on the paperless electronic voting machines that over 80% of Pennsylvania voters are forced to use in order to vote. These are effectively “black boxes” where there is no simple or reliable way to verify the accuracy of the vote count. This is one of the chief reasons paperless machines have been banned in several states.

The fight to address these problems has continued in state court. Meanwhile, in the wake of the recount, two important victories for election protection and voting justice have been won.

First,the Secretary of State ordered all counties to replace their aging voting machines by the 2019 elections with paper record voting systems. Activists are working to ensure that counties purchase only systems that use hand-marked paper ballots, the gold standard for election integrity.

Second, the March 2018 Congressional spending bill allocated $380 million dollars for election security to be distributed among the 50 states. This will provide funding to help make these purchases possible.

The recount campaign also focused attention on Pennsylvania’s complex, chaotic procedure for voters to request a recount. By law, the statewide recount required at least three legal affidavits in each of over 9,000 precincts, requiring the mobilization of over 27,000 voters across the state in a very short period of time. Additionally, election officials were unable to provide deadline dates and locations for filing these affidavits in order to officially request a recount. This untenable process, combined with the paperless voting machines, made it virtually impossible to initiate a meaningful recount. Multiple attempts in court to compel a statewide recount were denied.

Five citizen plaintiffs and Jill Stein, as the candidate of record, are continuing to challenge the state's outdated and restrictive procedure for recounts in state court. They are also demanding a special “forensic examination” of voting equipment software - an analysis conducted by voting machine experts to determine whether the election was compromised by machine error or tampering.


What happened with the recount effort in Wisconsin?

In Wisconsin, thanks to the tireless efforts of election workers and observers, a recount was conducted throughout the entire state. Unfortunately, not all counties conducted a recount by hand, the only reliable way to do a recount. While the campaign was able to beat back efforts by Trump and the GOP to stop the recount, the refusal by some of the largest and most important counties in the state to conduct a hand recount undermined the possibility of an accurate recount. In the absence of a hand recount, the ballots are simply reinserted into the same machines that produced the first count, providing no meaningful cross check on the potentially flawed machines.

Election officials in Milwaukee County, the largest and the most socioeconomically, racially and ethnically diverse county in the state, declined a hand recount.  This was unfortunate given the findings in Michigan that showed voting machines are most likely to malfunction in under-resourced communities of color. Absent a hand recount, there is no way to know whether the vote count in Milwaukee County was likewise compromised.

The recount effort was met with repeated efforts to obstruct the process: a baseless Federal Election Commission complaint by the Wisconsin Republican Party; a frivolous suit filed by a Trump super PAC whose argument the judge called ‘dead on arrival’; and a shocking, last-minute $2.4 million increase in recount cost.

Despite the resistance to the 2016 recount in Wisconsin, the fight for voting justice continues. For over a year, our legal team has been working to set up a groundbreaking state-wide examination of crucial voting machine software that controls the actual counting and tallying of the votes.

Incredibly, this software has never before been examined following an election for evidence of tampering or errors that would compromise an election!

A new, unique Wisconsin law allows us the right to examine this software. The examination, conducted by computer voting experts, would check for evidence of human error, intentional interference or tampering by anyone - whether foreign powers, criminal networks, domestic partisans, or corporations that control the voting software.

But it will be a tough legal fight to make this happen.  That’s because election law largely protects the privacy and profits of voting software companies over our right to an accurate and secure vote.

We are in continuing negotiations with the Wisconsin Election Commission (WEC) and the voting software company in the hopes of making this happen soon.


How was the recount funding raised and how has it been used?

We put out a call over Thanksgiving weekend in 2016 asking for concerned citizens across the country to help raise money for recount filing fees and other related recount costs. In compliance with Federal Election Commission rules, the maximum contribution was limited to $2,700 total. Over 161,000 individuals donated an average of $45 to the recount effort.

An initial budget was posted on our website, which has been updated periodically to keep donors informed on how the recount donations have been put to work.

The largest expenses initially were for state filing fees and legal costs. Continuing expenses are driven largely by the cost of the ongoing legal cases, related communications and public education in support of recounts and voting justice, plus administrative costs and Federal Election Commission compliance.

Once the court case(s) have been completed, any remaining funds will be distributed to election protection and voting justice initiatives as determined by a ranked choice vote by the donors.


How is the recount battle continuing inside the legal system?

Despite the resistance to 2016 recount in Wisconsin, the fight for voting justice continues. For over a year, our legal team has been working to set up a groundbreaking state-wide examination of crucial voting machine software that controls the actual counting and tallying of the votes.

Incredibly, this software has never before been examined following an election for evidence of tampering or errors that would compromise an election!

A new, unique Wisconsin law allows us the right to examine this software. The examination, conducted by computer voting experts, would check for evidence of human error, intentional interference or tampering by anyone - whether foreign powers, criminal networks, domestic partisans, or corporations that control the voting software.

But it will be a tough legal fight to make this happen.  That’s because election law largely protects the privacy and profits of voting software companies over our right to an accurate and secure vote.

We are in continuing negotiations with the Wisconsin Election Commission (WEC) and the voting software company in the hopes of making this happen soon.

In Pennsylvania, Jill Stein and five citizen plaintiffs are challenging the state's outdated and restrictive procedure for recounts in Federal Court, as well as demanding a public right to a forensic examination of voting equipment software, in order to provide verifiable election results. The suit challenges Pennsylvania's impossible procedure and paperless machinery on constitutional grounds.


Why are you calling for an Emergency Commission for Election Protection and Voting Justice?

Protecting our voting system from cyber-threats is critical in an age when everything from hospitals to nuclear power plants are being hacked. But cybersecurity and an accurate vote count is just the tip of the iceberg for safeguarding our votes, when the US election system is largely designed to protect the power of the economic and political elite.

There are numerous threats to our voting system, from voter suppression schemes to the stranglehold of big money over the political system, biased election coverage by corporate media, exclusionary debates and more. The Cambridge Analytica-Facebook scandal reveals another cutting-edge tool with which oligarchs like Robert Mercer, Cambridge Analytica’s major funder, can influence elections, using massive privacy violations, state of the art micro-targeting and manipulative messaging. To bring real democracy to America, we need a broad agenda for voting justice that addresses all of these threats, and builds a unified movement to achieve real solutions.

Therefore we are calling for a nonpartisan, Emergency Commission on Election Protection & Voting Justice to oversee urgently-needed immediate as well as longer-term solutions to ensure a secure and just vote.

The Emergency Commission can advance many urgently-needed solutions. We must end voter suppression schemes and ensure the constitutional right to vote. Prior to the 2018 election, we need a rapid transition to paper ballots, especially in the 12 states that still use the most vulnerable electronic machines lacking any paper record whatsoever; cybersecurity best practices, universal rigorous post-election audits, and routine post-election recounts as warranted. Congress needs to step up and provide funding to make this happen.

To begin addressing the abuses of big data, micro-targeting and military-style psyops, privacy protections must be created for personal data and internet/social media communications. In the rush to guard against propaganda and fake news, however, we must ensure that the rights of free speech and political opposition - increasingly stifled in current social media and conventional press - are restored and protected. We must also take on the fundamental corruption of our elections that has been so normalized that it’s rarely even discussed: the stranglehold of big money over the entire process. We can break this stranglehold by establishing public financing for political campaigns and free air time for ballot-qualified candidates, which further diminishes the cost of political campaigns. We can expand voter choice and end fear-based elections through Ranked Choice Voting, which liberates voters to vote for what they want, instead of against what they dislike. And we can ensure voters are informed about the greater range of choices that they are clamoring for - by creating a new presidential debate commission not controlled by the two establishment parties.

To effectively deal with foreign election interference, we must address the fact that the US is not only a victim of election interference, but a leading perpetrator of it as well, whether through nonviolent or violent means. Given our track record, it is simply unrealistic and unethical to expect other countries to respect the sovereignty of foreign elections unless we commit to doing so as well. Effectively ending election interference requires international diplomacy and treaties.

The Emergency Commission would provide consistent long-term public education, advocacy and watch-dogging that will be required to overcome resistance to the reforms required to achieve truly fair elections.  



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  • Robert Blackmon
    published this page 2017-12-12 11:20:33 -0500
  • Robert Blackmon
    published this page 2017-09-27 20:09:43 -0400