Green Party candidate Jill Stein requested on Monday a recount in Pennsylvania, one of the decisive states in electing Donald Trump as the next president of the United States.
Stein’s lawyers argued that they had “a legitimate and good faith basis to contest the [results] based upon the findings of Alex Halderman, a leading national expert in computer science and voting systems.”
The lawsuit cites an affidavit by Halderman, the director of the University of Michigan Center for Computer Security and Society, and a very “credible” source, according to voting rights expert Richard L. Hasen.
Here’s what Halderman’s affidavit says:
One explanation for the results of the 2016 presidential election is that cyberattacks influenced the result. This explanation is plausible, in light of other known cyberattacks intended to affect the outcome of the election; the profound vulnerability of American voting machines to cyberattack; and the fact that a skilled attacker would leave no outwardly visible evidence of an attack other than an unexpected result.
A recount is the best way, and indeed the only way, to ensure public confidence that the results are accurate, authentic, and untainted by interference.
As Mark Dent and Anna Orso note at the website Billy Penn, there are three ways to initiate a recount in Pennsylvania. The first is an automatic recount if a candidate wins by less than 0.5 percent—Trump defeated Hillary Clinton by more than a full percent in Pennsylvania, so this is not an option. The second is through a voter-initiated effort. The third is through an allegation of widespread fraud, which appears to be the route that Stein is taking.
Despite Halderman’s credibility as an election expert, the allegation of widespread fraud does not have much evidence to back it up. It relies mainly on citing the hacking effort by Russia to affect other portions of the election—such as the country’s reported work to hack Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign emails—as well as alleged voting anomalies that are easily explained by polling failures. In fact, Halderman himself has said this about his own data:
Were this year’s deviations from pre-election polls the results of a cyberattack? Probably not. 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.
In that same post, to be fair, Halderman argues that the only way to ensure that the election wasn’t hacked is to do a paper recount of the vote. But he presents this as a bit of technocratic best practice to be 100 percent certain of electoral integrity, rather than something that will actually overturn the results of the race.
Stein’s lawsuit on the other hand appears to rest on the premise that Halderman is providing proof that there was electoral malfeasance specifically in Pennsylvania. The suit offers no direct evidence of such, rather citations of examples of hacking elsewhere and previous demonstrations he’s done to show how hacking of voting machines might be possible and difficult to trace.
In an interview on MSNBC on Monday, Stein said she was urging recounts in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin—three states critical to Trump’s electoral college victory—not for personal gain.
“This is not about advancing my own career. My campaign is not going to win here,” she said.
She went on to raise the prospect that the election results were hacked without preventing any evidence.
“We had a lot of hacking—a lot of hacking—in this election and we want to know that our votes have not been hacked,” she said.
“The nature of hacking is that you don’t see it if you don’t look,” she continued.
Stein told MSNBC she had raised $6.2 million for her recount efforts. Trump has cited this effort in raising his own absurd and completely without basis claims that he “won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”
Trump lost the popular vote by more than 2 million votes, according to the latest numbers. He won Pennsylvania by about 70,000 votes.