Presidential Campaign

Stein’s recount effort is important — here’s why

U.S. voters
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It has been claimed that election recounts typically do not change results, but this has not been a typical election and there have been extraordinary claims on both camps.

{mosads}Even prior to the election, Donald Trump cited that the system was “rigged” somehow against him, explaining that the problem existed even at polling places. And in his latest claim, the president-elect has explained that he would have won the popular vote had millions of people not been permitted to vote illegally.

So the problem is that even the Trump, the incoming president, is calling into question the legitimacy of our voting system. This does not tend to instill confidence in the overall results, and this is the problem for millions of voters participating in the election. 

Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, has set up a fundraising campaign for recounts in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, which has continued to ask for more money due to a variety of roadblocks Stein claims are adding to costs. Additionally, the Trump team has recently filed an action opposing any recount in Michigan, which has been denied. Stein has filed recounts on the basis of reports received from prominent computer scientists and election lawyers.

There has already been great debate surrounding the election recount and whether it is going to produce any real changes in the process. Most people contend that it is highly unlikely —very few election results have been changed because of recounts historically. Additionally, the sheer number of votes needed for Hillary Clinton to overtake Trump in the three contested states is no-doubt an uphill challenge.

According to one report, FairVote has compiled statistics that demonstrate between 10 and 15 percent of calls for recounts are successful in overturning results over the last 15 years. However, the margins of votes where Clinton is behind Trump in the contested states is significantly higher than in the states where recounts have changed previously. The examples cited in the report demonstrate a narrower margin between the opponents than exists between Trump and Clinton in the contested states.

But, there is concern from both parties regarding what the results might be with the recount. Some of the most recent recounts resulting in changes are the 2004 Washington race for governor, the 2006 Vermont auditor election, and 2008 Minnesota U.S. Senate race.

Perhaps the most disturbing recount in modern history was the 2004 Washington gubernatorial race, which pitted Republican Dino Rossi against Democrat Christine Gregoire. After the initial count, Rossi led by a razor-thin margin of 261 votes. A subsequent, automatic machine recount gave Rossi a lead of just 42 votes. Washington law provided for a manual recount to be done in the event that a candidate requested — and paid for — the costs up front as is true in the current case in Michigan.

The manual recount was an absolute mess, with claims of voter fraud and electioneering rampant during the process. It did not help the case that election officials uncovered computer programming issues related to machines, which invalidated signatures on ballots it could not properly read — signatures that were present and verifiable, but not to a machine.

There were also various data entry errors where 561 ballots had not been properly counted. And yes, lost ballots were even found on multiple occasions. In fact, 162 of them were found in a locked cage in warehouse. With the missing, lost and invalidated ballots counted, and multiple lawsuits regarding the recount, the results swung into Gregoire’s favor and she officially won the popular vote, by just 133 votes. 

Afterward, Rossi filed suit to challenge the recount and called for a revote. Rossi’s supporters made claims that the ballots were appearing out of thin air and this did not help to establish trust in the election system. Rossi begrudgingly conceded nearly six months after Gregoire was sworn into office and working as governor. After extensive investigation, a court found that over a thousand felons and 19 dead people had voted. The results prompted massive election reform.

While the vote count in the current presidential election’s contested states is not as close as the votes in Washington, the problem is not so much the overall result, but how they were achieved. The fact that ballots were invalidated, lost — some argue intentionally — illegal and dead voters cast their ballots, and votes were massively disregarded does not lend credence to the popular sentiment that “your vote counts.”

This election cycle, former Vice President Al Gore, who lost his presidential election but won the popular vote in the 2000, encouraged people to vote saying, “take it from me – your vote counts.” But people are not so sure, especially with the same scenario playing out in front of us.

As in the Washington race and with Gore’s race, we see the theme of litigation pending. The courts again are involved in our election process and this puts yet another stain on the process which so desperately requires reform. Many have called for the Electoral College to be reformed or even abolished. And although that is not the solution for everyone, something needs to change. 

It is also import to note that there were many stories about the hacking of balloting systems prior to the election. In fact, as early as Oct. 18, 33 states and 11 counties had asked for help from the Department of Homeland Security to prevent election fraud and/or hacking — higher than any request in history. This seems to be something that we have forgotten all too quickly. If organizations could obtain the Clinton emails and other state secrets prior to the election and use them as a part of the electioneering process, it is truly possible that there could have some hacking of the balloting machines.

Stein herself has claimed the machines are easily hacked, and has already contested that absentee ballots may be part of the problem because of their significant rise in this election. And there have been several examples of how a balloting machine might be hacked. There has even been a popular HBO documentary, titled “Hacking Democracy,” which has detailed the problems surrounding using e-voting machines.

Although unlikely to change the overall result, the concerns regarding election system integrity is a problem despite party affiliation. Comments made regarding the popular vote by Trump as well as the recount in Stein’s contested states clearly demonstrate that a hard look at our election system is necessary to instill confidence and assuaging fears in order for the people to be assured that every vote counts.


Ruben Major obtained his Master’s Degree in Military History from Norwich University. He writes on politics, public safety, and Emergency Medical Services. He is also a contributing writer for The Hill, and editor in chief of EMS Wire which is an online Public Safety/EMS blog/news service. Ruben is CEO of EMS University and has also served the community as an EMT/Paramedic for 15 years.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.

Tags 2016 Al Gore Ballot Donald Trump Election Hacking Hillary Clinton Recount rigged Voting

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