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Five citizen plaintiffs and Jill Stein, as the candidate of record, are continuing to challenge the state's outdated and restrictive procedure for recounts in state court.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.