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7 Election Integrity and Cyber Security Experts Say Stopping Michigan Recount Is a Corrupt Exercise of Power

“Americans will never know the truth about what happened.”

December 8, 2016
By Steven Rosenfeld / AlterNet

Michigan is the new Florida in American elections, an infamous state where Republican judges shut down a presidential recount before the votes were counted, leaving Americans with unanswered questions about Donald Trump’s closest margin of victory on election night, November 8. Thursday morning, no county election offices were continuing with the recount, even as Green presidential candidate Jill Stein’s campaign was taking its flght for the recount to Michigan’s Supreme Court.

Make no mistake, a travesty has occurred. On Wednesday in courtrooms and government boardrooms across the state, a series of legal dominos fell on Stein’s statewide presidential recount. ...

What follows are seven statements from election integrity activists and computer security experts who supported the recount.

1. John Bonifaz, co-founder and president, Free Speech For People: "It is an outrage that the voters of Michigan are being denied their right to have their votes properly counted. ... "

2. Douglas W. Jones, associate professor of computer science, University of Iowa: “In a healthy democracy, elections are run with sufficient transparency that partisans of the losing candidate can convince themselves that they lost fair and square. Recounts in close elections are a necessary part of this transparency, particularly when the margin of victory is exceeded by an unusual number of ballots that were cast without reporting any vote in the election. Trump's fight to stop the recount only serves to fuel speculation that he has something to hide.”

3. Mark Halverson, founder and former director, Citizens of Election Integrity Minnesota: “On the basis of our research into state recount laws, I take issue with the court’s assertion that no court has ever endorsed the use of a recount for purposes of determining whether or not voting machines functioned properly and counted votes accurately. ..."

4. Barbara Simons, board of advisers, U.S. Election Assistance Commission: The co-author of Broken Ballots: Will Your Vote Count? says, “Michigan citizens are fortunate to have a sound method for casting their votes: they mark paper ballots which are then counted by computers inside of scanning machines. ... But if we don't look at the paper, then we can't know if the scanners are correct. ..."

5. Phillip B. Stark, associate dean of mathematical and physical sciences and professor of statistics, UC Berkeley: “This decision halts the collection of priceless evidence about how well the infrastructure of our democracy works. ..."

6. Poorvi Vora, professor of computer science, George Washington University: "Statistician Philip Stark and computer scientist David Wagner of Berkeley have defined 'evidence-based elections' as those where voters and observers are provided evidence in support of the election outcome. ... This is not the time to stop the recount. This is the time to press on with it to obtain more evidence and understand more completely the election process in Michigan."

7. Dan Wallach, professor in Rice University’s Department of Computer Science and manager of Rice Computer Security Lab: “I'm disappointed that Michigan isn't seeing its recount through. We have legitimate concerns about foreign nation-states trying to manipulate our elections, and Michigan offered an important opportunity to either prove or disprove these concerns. ..."

Recount Continues in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin

The Stein campaign also filed for recounts in Wisconsin, which started last week, and in Pennsylvania, which has gotten off to a rough start ...

Pennsylvania’s election system allows for a state-run recount if the margin of victory is less than 0.5 percent, which is slightly below Donald Trump’s latest lead over Hillary Clinton. ...

When the Stein campaign filed a legal petition seeking a statewide recount with 100 signatures on it, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court demanded that they pay $1 million to be able to move forward with their case ... In Wisconsin, where the recount is nearing completion, the state inexplicably more than tripled its estimated $1.1 million filing fee ...

But the most dubious opposition to recounting the ballots was in Michigan, where the state election department told counties they could disqualify local precincts from a recount if there is discrepancy between the number of voters in a precinct’s poll book and the number of ballots in the ballot box. That standard meant 392 of 662 precincts in heavily Democratic Detroit—or 59 percent—of the precincts were deemed ineligible for a recount.

In interviews with the Detroit Free Press, nationally known election scholars criticized that disqualifying standard. ...


But like Wisconsin, where state actors changed the rules in the middle of the recount process, Michigan Republicans have not stopped going after the Greens. In their GOP-controlled legislature, the House Elections Committee has passed and sent to the floor a bill retroactively requiring the Stein campaign to pay more for the recount.

Not What Democracy Looks Like

Voting in the presidential election didn’t start on November 8. It began weeks before, where civil rights attorneys in many states were in court to prevent partisan election officials, almost all Republicans, from creating barriers to the vote such as closing early voting sites in communities of color and toughening voter ID laws to get a ballot. And the presidential election didn’t end after Election Day, when states took weeks to officially certify their counts and a call came to verify the vote count in the states that purportedly elected Trump.

Americans need to know who elected Trump and why, instead of seeing a morass of vote count obstructionism that’s as alarming as the October surprise delivered by a partisan FBI, ... Perhaps American elections have always been this way, but many voters do not think that’s the way a democracy is supposed to function.