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Pennsylvania Recount Effort Switches To Federal Courts

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Jack Flash
Pennsylvania Recount Effort Switches To Federal Courts

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A Green Party-backed campaign changed its strategy to force a statewide recount of Pennsylvania’s Nov. 8 presidential election, won by Republican Donald Trump, and said late Saturday night that it will seek help in the federal courts, rather than the state courts.

The announcement that it would seek an emergency federal court order on Monday for a recount came hours after it dropped a case in the state courts.

“Make no mistake – the Stein campaign will continue to fight for a statewide recount in Pennsylvania,” recount campaign lawyer Jonathan Abady said in a statement issued around 11:30 p.m. “We are committed to this fight to protect the civil and voting rights of all Americans.”

In the statement, Abady said barriers to a recount in Pennsylvania are pervasive and the state court system is ill-equipped to address the problem.

Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein has framed the campaign as an effort to explore whether voting machines and systems had been hacked and the election result manipulated. Stein’s lawyers, however, had offered no evidence of hacking in Pennsylvania’s election, and the state Republican Party and Trump had asked the court to dismiss the state court case.

The decision came two days before a state court hearing was scheduled in the case. Saturday’s court filing to withdraw the case said the Green Party-backed voters who filed it “are regular citizens of ordinary means” and cannot afford the $1 million bond ordered by the court by 5 p.m. Monday. Green Party-backed efforts to force recounts and analyze election software in scattered precincts were continuing.

While changing the election result was always believed to be very unlikely (even by Hillary Clinton’s own campaign), the only path to changing the outcome involved recounts in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan swinging to Clinton. Without a recountin Pennsylvania, the recounts in Michigan and Wisconsin will have no change on the end result of the election.

The Pennsylvania GOP confirmed the recount had been dropped in a statement. In the statement, the Pennsylvania GOP charged that the recount effort “clearly has no chance of changing the results and that it was done for media attention.”

Stein said in a statement on Saturday night the cost of the recount had caused the Green Party to drop its court case. Stein also said in a statement that she will hold a rally at Trump Tower on Monday.

In a series of tweets, Stein called it “odd” that the recount effort had to “jump through bureaucratic loops.”

A recount began Thursday in Wisconsin, while a recount could begin next week in Michigan. Mr. Trump’s victory in Pennsylvania was particularly stunning: the state’s fifth-most electoral votes are a key stepping stone to the White House, and no Republican presidential candidate had captured the state since 1988.

Stein had said the purpose of Pennsylvania’s recount was to ensure “our votes are safe and secure,” considering hackers’ probing of election targets in other states and hackers’ accessing of the emails of the Democratic National Committee and several Clinton staffers. U.S. security officials have said they believe Russian hackers orchestrated the email hacks, something Russia has denied.

They have sought unsuccessfully in recent days to get various counties to allow a forensic examination of their election system software.

Lawyers for Trump and the state Republican Party argued there was no evidence, or even an allegation, that tampering with Pennsylvania’s voting systems had occurred. Further, Pennsylvania law does not allow a court-ordered recount, they argued, and a lawyer for the Green Party had acknowledged that the effort was without precedent in Pennsylvania.

The case also had threatened Pennsylvania’s ability to certify its presidential electors by the Dec. 13 federal deadline, Republican lawyers argued.

On Saturday, a GOP lawyer, Lawrence Tabas, said the case had been meant “solely for purposes to delay the Electoral College vote in Pennsylvania for President-Elect Trump.”

The state’s top elections official, Secretary of State Pedro Cortes, a Democrat, has said there was no evidence of any sort of cyberattacks or irregularities in the election. Any recount would change few votes, Cortes predicted.

As of Friday, Trump’s margin of victory in Pennsylvania was 49,000, or less than 1 percent, out of 6 million votes cast, according to state election officials. Final counts were outstanding in some counties, including heavily populated Allegheny County, but state and county officials did not expect any outstanding uncounted votes to change the outcome of the presidential election in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania’s automatic statewide recount trigger is 0.5 percent. Stein drew less than 1 percent of the votes cast.

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – Green Party-backed voters dropped a court case Saturday night that had sought to force a statewide recount of Pennsylvania’s Nov. 8 presidential election, won by Republican Donald Trump, in what Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein had framed as an effort to explore whether voting machines and systems had been hacked and the election result manipulated.

The decision came two days before a court hearing was scheduled in the case. Saturday’s court filing to withdraw the case said the Green Party-backed voters who filed the case “are regular citizens of ordinary means” and cannot afford the $1 million bond ordered by the court by 5 p.m. Monday. However, Green Party-backed efforts to force recounts and analyze election software in scattered precincts were continuing.

Stein planned to make an announcement about the Pennsylvania recount Monday outside the Trump Tower in New York.

“The judge’s outrageous demand that voters pay such an exorbitant figure is a shameful, unacceptable barrier to democratic participation,” said Stein. “This is yet another sign that Pennsylvania’s antiquated election law is stacked against voters. By demanding a $1 million bond from voters yesterday, the court made clear it has no interest in giving a fair hearing to these voters’ legitimate concerns over the accuracy, security and fairness of an election tainted by suspicion. No voter in America should be forced to pay thousands of dollars to know if her or his vote was counted. Still, the recount continues and we will fight to ensure the civil and voting rights of all citizens are protected. We look forward to announcing our next step on Monday and we will pursue every available remedy to ensure Pennsylvanians can trust what happened in this election.”

The court case had been part of an effort spearheaded by Stein to force recounts in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, three states with a history of backing Democrats for president that were narrowly and unexpectedly won by Trump over Democrat Hillary Clinton.

A recount began Thursday in Wisconsin, while a recount could begin next week in Michigan. Trump’s victory in Pennsylvania was particularly stunning: the state’s fifth-most electoral votes are a key stepping stone to the White House, and no Republican presidential candidate had captured the state since 1988.

Stein had said the purpose of Pennsylvania’s recount was to ensure “our votes are safe and secure,” considering hackers’ probing of election targets in other states and hackers’ accessing of the emails of the Democratic National Committee and several Clinton staffers. U.S. security officials have said they believe Russian hackers orchestrated the email hacks, something Russia has denied.

Stein’s lawyers, however, had offered no evidence of hacking in Pennsylvania’s election. They sought unsuccessfully in recent days to get various counties to allow a forensic examination of their election system software.

Lawyers for Trump and the state Republican Party argued there was no evidence, or even an allegation, that tampering with Pennsylvania’s voting systems had occurred. Further, Pennsylvania law does not allow a court-ordered recount, they argued, and a lawyer for the Green Party had acknowledged that the effort was without precedent in Pennsylvania.

A statement from the Pennsylvania GOP sent Saturday night read, in part:

“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…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.”

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  • Gum Boocho

    The vote counting system should be certifiably accurate from the start. Unless there is evidence of evil actions, No Recounts should be done since it causes confusion. If they postulate that the Russians or men from Mars hacked the computers, the computers could be checked for MalWare. But who will check the checkers? If a Democrat checker checked the computer, he might inject MalWare where it wasn’t to begin with. Elections & vote-counting bring out the worst in people. And if you really want vote tampering, let some human Democrats get their hands on the ballots & do the tallying themselves. They could check the voter list for non-citizens.

  • Gum Boocho

    There is nothing outrageous about requiring a bond & Stein is not “an ordinary citizen,” if there even were such legal categories as “ordinary citizen” vs “extraordinary citizen.” One has to be reminded of Hillary’s attacks on Trump on the grounds that he was violating democracy by refusing to endorse in advance accepting the outcome of the election.

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