Court Docs | Recount needed to rule out possibility of interference in voting system
A state-wide hand recount is expected to start in Wisconsin by the end of the week.
Green Party Presidential Nominee Jill Stein is still pushing for recounts in two other states, including Michigan and Pennsylvania, where she filed a legal petition in state court.
Stein's campaign says recount requests were filed in more than 100 precincts across the state.
“Americans deserve a voting system we can trust,” Stein explained in a press release. “After a presidential election tarnished by the use of outdated and unreliable machines and accusations of irregularities and hacks, people of all political persuasions are asking if our election results are reliable. We must recount the votes so we can build trust in our election system. We need to verify the vote in this and every election so that Americans of all parties can be sure we have a fair, secure and accurate voting system.”
READ: Jill Stein files petition in Commonwealth Court for recount
In a petition filed with the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, Stein certified she believes the "2016 Presidential Election was illegal and the return thereof was not correct," citing "vulnerabilities of the electronic voting systems used within the electronic voting systems used within the Commonwealth to interference or hacking."
J. Alex Halderman, the director of the Center for Computer Security and Society at the University of Michigan, explained in his deposition he believes the possibility of voting machines in the Keystone state are evidenced by public reports of hacking aimed at the Democratic National Committee, along with systems in Illinois and Arizona, and the "discontinuity" between pre-election polls and the actual result of the election.
If a foreign government were to attempt to hack American voting machines to influence the outcome of a presidential election, one might expect the attackers to proceed as follows. First, the attackers might prove election officers well in advance to find ways to break into computers. Next, closer to the election, when it was clear from polling data which states would have close electoral margins, the attackers might spread malware into voting machines into some of these states, manipulating the machines to shift a few percent of the vote to favor their desired candidate. This malware would likely be designed to remain inactive during pre-election tests, perform its function during the election, and then erase itself after the polls closed. One would expected a skilled attacker's work to leave no visible signs, other than a surprising electoral outcome in which results in several close states differed from pre-election polling.
While Halderman explained why this could be the reason the polling numbers were so far off from the actual result, in a letter to Medium.com, he wrote he does not personally believe "this year’s deviations from pre-election polls the results of a cyberattack."
I believe the most likely explanation is that the polls were systematically wrong, rather than that the election was hacked. But I don’t believe that either one of these seemingly unlikely explanations is overwhelmingly more likely than the other.
The only way to definitively know whether a cyberattack changed the result of the election in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan is to closely examine the paper ballots and voting machines, he told Medium.com. He says he supports the recount effort because "nobody is ever going to examine that evidence unless candidates in those states act now."
Is a recount possible in PA? What would the process entail?
CBS21 News reached out to the Department of States Office several times Monday to ask if a recount within the Commonwealth is possible and what the process would entail.
According to the Department of State, they are aware petitions have been filed in Berks, Bucks, Centre, Montogomery and Philadelphia Counties, but did not elaborate on the exact number of petitions filed in each county.
This the guidance the Department of State is providing to each county in the Commonwealth:
- You may have received petitions for recounts today. We are providing this guidance on what you should do with the petitions.
- As an initial matter, all counties should time stamp each document to indicate the date and time it was received in your office. All counties should do regardless of whether the county is accepting or rejecting the petitions.
- If your county had finished its computation, prepared a certification, waited 5 days from the date of finishing your computation and that five day period has expired, you may reject the petitions and communicate that to the filer. We recommend that you keep a copy of the stamped petition and any written documentation you may provide to the petitioner setting forth the reason(s) for rejection, if applicable.
- If your county has finished its computation, prepared a certification, and the five day period expires today or later, you may inform the filer that during this five-day period, the petition for recount must be filed with the court of common pleas. If a county is directing the filer to the Court of Common Pleas, we recommend that you stamp the petition and keep a copy for your records, as this information may prove helpful later.
- If your county has not completed its initial computation of the returns, under 25 P.S. § 3154, a petition for recount is appropriately directed to the county board of elections and must be accepted.
In Pennsylvania, a recount can occur if three or more voters per precinct submit affidavits. Pennsylvania has 9,175 voting districts, meaning there needs to be at least 27,525 affidavits submitted.
"What we would do is wait for word from the state. If they told us they need to do a recount, we'd wait for guidance from them as far as how we would proceed," Michael Anderson with the Lebanon Bureau of Elections and Voter Registration said.
On Friday, the Department of State said "the Pennsylvania election code includes a provision allowing an election to be contested in the courts. Such action must be taken within 20 days after the election."
The department would not comment on what the recount process would entail.
Today, the department says they have learned that many counties have completed their certification thereby closing the 5-day window to petition at the county level for a recount.
If a person would like to submit a petition for a recount and their county has certified its results, the person can still file with the Court of Common Please.
Anderson says in Lebanon County they take several precautions to make sure the machines are accurate and are not tampered with.
"We have a company that comes in and does what we call logistics and accuracy testing and that happens a couple of weeks before the election," he said.
He says those machines stay sealed until Election Day and that they are only plugged into the wall and can not be connected to the internet or other machines.
CBS21 News' Political Insider Tony May says recounts of this magnitude are rare and that there has not been a recount in PA as far as he can remember.
But he says he thinks it is a good idea.
"I don't know of any reports of substantial errors or fraud that were reported in PA enough to change the outcome. I think in the long run, though, it is worth doing because it will increase confidence in people on both sides of the race," Mays said.
Stein's Calls To Action
Stein posted a video to her website asking voters in Pennsylvania to help with the recount effort over the weekend.
Stein has been raising money for recounts in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan. So far the Green Party has raised over $6.5 million for the effort. Stein has already filed for a recount in Wisconsin, which is expected to start this week.
Stein is asking for the help of voters in Pennsylvania because candidates cannot file direct requests, they can only file a legal appeal which would be decided by the court.
According to CBS, a statewide recount can occur in Pennsylvania if at least three voters per precinct submit affidavits. Pennsylvania has over 9,000 election districts, according to Citizens for Election Integrity.
In the video, Stein asks for volunteers in each district to file the affidavits and she explains the process to do so.
Volunteers can download the affidavit from her website and fill it out, but Stein warns that voters must sign the affidavit in the presence of a notary. After the affidavit is filled out and signed the voter submits it to the clerk in their election district.
In order for a recount to occur over 27,000 voters would have to follow Stein's instructions, and in some districts the deadline to file has already passed.
Stein tweeted recently that about 1,500 voters have agreed to file.
The voter-initiated recount in Pennsylvania could cost $500,000.
An automatic recount would have been triggered in Pennsylvania if the margin of victory had been less than 0.5 percent. Trump won Pennsylvania by over 70,000 votes, slightly over one percent.