As Capital Watch goes to press, former presidential candidate Jill Stein and a co-petitioner filed a lawsuit in federal court on Dec. 5 to hold a statewide recount in the Keystone State. General Election recounts are already taking place in Wisconsin and Michigan,
“Pennsylvania also has among the most vulnerable, outdated, and unsecure voting machines in the country. Pennsylvania is also among a very few states where the great majority of voters vote without the ability to check any paper trail,” read Stein’s filing against Pennsylvania Secretary of the Commonwealth Pedro Cortes and Jonathan Marks, commissioner of the Bureau of Commissions, Elections and Legislation.
“As a result of the Pennsylvania Election Code, and the conduct of defendants, the [Department of State] and the 67 county boards, the voters of Pennsylvania do not have voting rights remotely equal to the rights of voters in the great majority of (if not all) other states,” it stated.
Stein, a candidate for the Green Party, is seeking a recount of paper ballots cast in the state and a forensic examination of the electronic voting equipment, according to the filing.
As stated in the filing, Stein is also asking the court declare Pennsylvania’s current election law violates voting rights-related components of the United States Constitution and prevent state officials from enforcing the allegedly unconstitutional portions of the Pennsylvania Election Code in the future.
Stein also asked to be reimbursed for the costs and attorney fees related to her suit.
Prior to the suit’s filing, some of Stein’s Pennsylvanian supporters rallied for her cause in the main rotunda of the state Capitol Building on Dec. 5.
Holding signs that read “restore my faith” and chanting “count the votes,” Green Party voters symbolically asked for the recount and requested that in the future, the state Legislature or Congress approve more funding for equipment upgrades and that counties use machines that provide voters with a receipt of their votes.
“To act like it isn’t possible, to act like we don’t need to worry our pretty little heads about it is absolutely childish,” said Pat LaMarche, the 2004 Green Party vice-presidential candidate and political activist, at the rally.
“We of course want to know whether our machines are accurately recording the information we have loaded into them. And it doesn’t make us a bunch of grumpy little gusses because we want to know for sure that it happened. It makes us citizens,” she added.
The election of president-elect Donald Trump is the focus of the recount, with Stein claiming precincts may have experienced cyberattacks and some results may have been manipulated, though her campaign has offered no hard evidence of such incidents.
Trump and the Republican Party of Pennsylvania have called Stein’s effort “frivolous” and “without merit.”
Lawrence Tabas, Esq., lead counsel in Pennsylvania for President-Elect Trump, his Electors, and the Republican Party of Pennsylvania stated on Dec. 3: “The filing of a discontinuance of the Election Contest by Jill Stein’s petitioners tonight is a recognition that their Election Contest was completely without merit, and meant solely for purposes to delay the Electoral College vote in Pennsylvania for President-Elect Trump.”
The state GOP argued Stein sought a court order for a statewide recount, which is absolutely not allowed under Pennsylvania law.
Tabas further said: “Candidate Jill Stein’s allegations created the false allusion that some unidentified foreign government hacked our state’s voting systems when absolutely no such proof existed. We believe that she always knew that she had no such proof.”
A state judge on Dec. 2 ordered that the more than 100 voters who brought a lawsuit on Stein’s behalf put up $1 million bond before a judge considers their arguments in a Commonwealth Court hearing, according to per curiam order. The money was to be used to cover the costs of a recount.
The Stein campaign and Green Party voters deemed the request excessive and the petitioners withdrew the suit.
“Petitioners are regular citizens of ordinary means,” their filing states. “They cannot afford to post the $1,000,000 bond required by the Court.”
Stein has raised more than $7.1 million for the three recounts, according to her website.
Wisconsin’s recount is estimated to cost $3.4 million, Michigan’s is estimated to cost $975,000, although there would still appear to be legal hurdles for Stein to clear in that state for a recount, and Pennsylvania’s is estimated to cost $500,000, according to her website. Lawyer fees are expected to cost $2 million to $3 million, and the campaign is also covering the cost of recounts in some Pennsylvania counties.
The campaign also cited concerns about the impartiality of Pennsylvania’s state courts in election-related cases.
“Over the past several days, it has become clear that the barriers to verifying the vote in Pennsylvania are so pervasive and that the state court system is so ill-equipped to address this problem that we must seek federal court intervention,” said Jonathan Abady, lead counsel of the party’s recount effort, in a press release.
Petitioners also worried that if they put up the money to receive a hearing, a judge could’ve dismissed the case, decided that the petitioners acted in bad faith and handed down thousands of dollars in fines, said Carl Romanelli, Pennsylvania’s coordinator of the Jill Stein campaign, at the rally.
“That eats up the money that we received from the hard earned donations of a lot of small donors,” said Romanelli.
Now, the petitioners have switched gears. Stein and a co-petitioner filed an emergency federal court order in the United States Eastern District court on Monday, although again without any concrete evidence of hacking or manipulation of the election results.
“In the 2016 presidential election, rife with foreign interference documented by American intelligence agencies and hacks of voter rolls in multiple states, voters deserve the truth. Were Pennsylvania votes counted accurately? That truth is not difficult to learn: simply count the paper ballots in optical scan districts, and permit forensic examination of the electronic voting systems in DRE districts. This can be done in days, by top experts, if necessary at the Stein campaign’s expense, under the supervision of election officials, and without endangering a single vote,” the filing read.
Stein’s supporters say that only a recount could bring incidents of hacking or manipulation to light.
“The hacking, for example, or even the malfunctioning is something that we will only learn by looking at the forensics of the machines,” argued Romanelli.
He said there is enough evidence, however, to prove some inaccuracies based on exit polling and anomalies reported in precincts, like an unverified ballot that was recorded in Centre County, according to a poll watcher who spoke at the rally.
But Stein isn’t only relying on the federal suit to bring about a recount, she is spearheading recounts in handful of county precincts across the state, including precincts in Philadelphia County, Allegheny County and Centre County.
If the precinct recounts bring Trump’s official vote count in Pennsylvania within half a percentage point of Clinton’s total, a recount will automatically be held, according to state law.
It is unclear how long it will take the federal court to rule on the suit, and concerns are being raised as to whether the state will be able to certify its elections by the deadline of Dec. 13.
In turn, there are concerns that the lawsuit may threaten Pennsylvania electors from casting their 20 votes for Trump on Dec. 19, when the Electoral College is scheduled to vote.
“I think that any delays that might occur rests as much on the election officials for not understanding and being prepared for what would be needed in a real recount and understanding that that’s important,’ Romanelli said. “And because they did not do their job and they inflicted these less than stellar equipment on us, than we are the ones that have to bring attention to you and the public …”
During a radio interview last week, Gov. Tom Wolf said there’s no indication of anything to invalidate the Nov. 8 General Election results.
“We don’t have any reason to believe that there was fraud – I think the Clinton campaign has also said they have not seen any fraud, but they are standing with the [Stein] suit,” Wolf said. “We just don’t see any evidence of that [fraud].”
According to the most recent election figures, Trump won the Keystone State by 47,755 more votes than Hillary Clinton, helping him to claim a predicted 306 total electoral votes to Clinton’s 232.
Stein received less than 1 percent of more than 6 million votes cast in the Keystone State.