Democrats are unenthusiastic about the recount effort being mounted by Jill Stein of the Green Party, seeing it as a futile effort that serves only to distract opponents of President-elect Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump takes shot at new GOP candidate in Ohio over Cleveland nickname GOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 On The Money — Dems dare GOP to vote for shutdown, default MORE’s policy and personnel decisions.
Some Democrats even come close to echoing Trump’s charge that re-tallying votes from the presidential race is just a “scam” being advanced by Stein, who has raised more than $6 million to fund potential recounts in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, three states critical to the Republican nominee’s win.
“It’s a waste of time and money. It is not going to change anything,” said Democratic strategist Joe Trippi, who served as campaign manager for former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential campaign.
“I think it probably was the Stein people looking for a way to stay relevant, raise some money and take the stink off of them. Instead of everybody screaming, ‘You made Trump happen,’ she is counting the votes to change that whole narrative.”
Stein has pushed back vigorously against such criticism. She acknowledges that the recounts are unlikely to change the election’s outcome, even if they proceed in all three states, which is far from guaranteed. But she says it is a worthwhile exercise aimed at ensuring elections are conducted fairly.
“We need to change our voting system. We need to implement these safeguards so that we are not asking the question after the fact,” she told CBS News.
On a fundraising page, Stein pledges that any unused money for the recounts will go “toward election integrity efforts and to promote voting system reform.”
Aides to former Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 Clinton lawyer's indictment reveals 'bag of tricks' Attorney charged in Durham investigation pleads not guilty MORE have sought a middle ground on Stein’s push. The remaining Clinton campaign team will “participate” in the effort but is not actively supporting it.
In a Medium post on Saturday, Clinton lawyer Marc Elias wrote, “Because we had not uncovered any actionable evidence of hacking or outside attempts to alter the voting technology, we had not planned to exercise this option ourselves.”
The Clinton team’s involvement will likely be limited to having lawyers or other experts at recount sites to watch over the proceedings.
“My sense is that the Clinton people would have preferred this not to happen and are going to be involved only in a monitoring capacity,” said Robert Shrum, a Democratic strategist and a veteran of several presidential campaigns, including that of 2004 nominee John KerryJohn KerryEquilibrium/Sustainability — Presented by The American Petroleum Institute — Illegal pot farms dry up Western creeks Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Interior returns BLM HQ to Washington Biden confirms 30 percent global methane reduction goal, urges 'highest possible ambitions' MORE.
Shrum added that he believed “people are way over-excited about the thing.” There is, he added, “no chance” that it will change the election’s outcome.
The recount push also scrambles the lines that had divided the candidates before the election.
At the third and final 2016 presidential debate, in October, Trump was excoriated by the Clinton campaign and many media figures when he told moderator Chris Wallace that he wanted to maintain the “suspense” about whether he would accept the election’s outcome.
Trump had also repeatedly asserted that the voting system was “rigged” in the weeks leading up to Election Day, an unsupported allegation that met with significant pushback from the Clinton campaign and other Democrats.
Now, it is liberals, environmentalists and progressives who are up in arms about potential chicanery, even though there is no compelling evidence to suggest anything nefarious took place.
On Saturday, Trump used his Twitter account to scold Stein and Clinton.
“The Green Party scam to fill up their coffers by asking for impossible recounts is now being joined by the badly defeated & demoralized Dems,” Trump wrote.
Trump also noted that Clinton had already conceded the election to him. She did so via a phone call in the early hours of Nov. 9.
The president-elect ratcheted up the intensity on Sunday, tweeting, “In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.” Trump offered no evidence to back up his claim.
The Trump team is continuing to push back against the recounts.
During a Monday morning conference call, Trump spokesman Jason Miller insisted it was “ridiculous that so much oxygen has been given to the recount effort, where there’s absolutely not a chance of the election results changing.”
Some Democrats, such as Trippi, believe the Trump camp is happy to have the spotlight focused on the election results rather than other controversies that are swirling around the president-elect, including his business dealings.
“His tweets about this and, again, everybody is taking the bait,” Trippi said. “Instead of looking at the stories of various conflicts of interest around the world that need to get addressed, everybody — including me — is talking about, ‘He tweeted that she won illegal votes, how dare he?’ ”
On a practical level, there are a number of hurdles for the pro-recount forces to overcome. In Pennsylvania, for example, Stein would either have to persuade a judge that there is compelling evidence of electoral fraud — something she does not appear to be planning — or else get affidavits from three residents of all of each state’s precincts or election districts, of which there are more than 9,000.
Most states had deadlines on Monday, though some localities have a Tuesday cutoff point. Others have a deadline that has already passed.
Michigan, which had been too close to call since Election Day, certified Trump as the winner in the state on Monday. The deadline to file for a recount in the Wolverine State is Wednesday. A lawyer for Stein has already told the state elections board that a recount petition will be filed.
According to a state election official who spoke to The Associated Press, any candidate opposed to that recount would have seven days from such a filing to register an objection. The issue would then by adjudicated by the board of elections after a public hearing.
Even though the obstacles are formidable, some Democrats do see an upside to the recount effort.
“It will likely not be successful, but it can be an effective organizing tool for people who are unhappy about the outcome of the election,” said Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf. “This could be good news for democracy, when you have public action. It is very important for people to remain engaged, remain interested.”
Even Sheinkopf, however, acknowledged that the push was only likely to bring further pain to Clinton’s most fervent partisans.
“It will create further depression among the extreme Hillaryites,” he said.