Jill Stein: Electronic Voting Is the Problem - We Need a Recount
Former presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein is continuing her efforts to force recounts in three states: Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan. But on Tuesday the effort faced a setback as a Wisconsin judge refused to order a statewide hand recount. Instead, the judge ruled that each of the state’s 72 county clerks can decide on their own how to carry out the recount. Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton in Wisconsin by less than 30,000 votes out of 2.8 million cast. The result was even closer in Michigan, where Trump won by just 12,000 votes. Stein is expected to file paperwork in Michigan by today’s deadline to request a recount there. More than 130,000 people have donated more than $6.5 million Stein’s efforts—that’s nearly double how much Stein raised during her presidential effort. We speak to Jill Stein.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
Amy Goodman: Former presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein is continuing her efforts to force recounts in three states: Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan. But on Tuesday the effort faced a setback as a Wisconsin judge refused to order a statewide hand recount. Instead, the judge ruled that each of the state’s 72 county clerks can decide on their own how to carry out the recount. Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton in Wisconsin by less than 30,000 votes out of 2.8 million cast. The result was even closer in Michigan, where Trump won by just 12,000 votes. Dr. Stein is expected to file paperwork in Michigan by today’s deadline, requesting a recount there. More than 130,000 people have donated more than $6.5 million to Stein’s efforts. That’s nearly double how much Stein raised during her presidential effort.
Trump has dismissed the recount efforts. In a statement, he said, "This is a scam by the Green Party for an election that has already been conceded, and the results of this election should be respected instead of being challenged and abused, which is exactly what Jill Stein is doing," he said. However, in another tweet, Trump did claim that millions of people illegally voted in the November 8th election. In a tweet sent out on Sunday, Trump wrote, "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," unquote. He offered no evidence to back up his claim. While Donald Trump did win the Electoral College, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s lead in the popular vote has now reached well over 2 million and is expected to grow to two-and-a-half million.
To talk more about the recount efforts, we’re joined by former Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein. She’s joining us from Boston.
Welcome back to Democracy Now!, Jill. Talk about your recount efforts, why you’ve decided to go this route.
Dr. Jill Stein: Right. Thank you, and good to be with you this morning, Amy. You know, coming out of this very divisive and bitter and painful election, you know, confidence of Americans in our voting system, in our election system, our political system—really, across the board, confidence in American institutions is really at rock-bottom low. According to a New York Times poll, 80 percent of Americans—more than 80 percent—said they were disgusted by the election. It’s really important that we be able to improve our election system and our political system as a base, a point of departure, for improving all the other things that are melting down around us—our healthcare system, our jobs, our climate, the endless wars that are making us less secure, and so on. We need to start by verifying our votes and ensuring that this is a democracy that we can work with.
Donald Trump himself said that it was a rigged election, in ways—in ways that he probably didn’t understand. But there was enormous resonance with what he said about it being a rigged election. When Bernie Sanders talked about it being a rigged economy, there was enormous resonance with that. This isn’t something we can just walk away and sweep under the rug. And remember, in this election, most people were voting against the candidate that they liked the least or that they were most afraid of, rather than for their values or for their vision of a better future.
So, I think there’s widespread soul searching and discontent about this election we’ve come out of. And I think it’s a really positive step that people have decided this is where we’re going to start, by ensuring that we can have confidence in the vote count. This is not about attempting to help one candidate or hurt another candidate. This is about helping voters restore confidence that we are properly and securely recording the votes and counting them. And we know theat these voting machines are subject to machine error, human error, hacking, tampering, you name it. These machines, when they’re looked into, produce all kinds of problems. And you can’t know unless you look.
AG: Can you respond to the Wisconsin judge, and what this means, handing it off to the local voting precincts?
JS: What the judge said was that hand-counted would be the gold standard and that that was the best way to restore confidence in the vote. But he, I’m told—this is secondhand—what I understand is that he acknowledged that the Wisconsin law didn’t enable him to order that. So he gave it, shall we say, moral authority to do the hand counts, but felt he could not actually order the hand counts. So it will be up to the county clerks and the county election departments, and we’ll be working with them and encouraging them to do the right thing. Now, the good news is, in the state of Michigan, where we’re formally filing today, we’ve already had an informal heads-up that they expect to go forward with a statewide hand count.
AG: And are you going to be moving forward on Michigan today?
JS: Yes, we are. We will be filing, paying the filing fee and moving forward. Another very difficult challenge to the campaign is that the state of Wisconsin raised the cost. It was going to be $1.1 million, and then, the night before last, we learned it’s actually going to be $3.5 million, which I think just underscores that there’s something wrong with this picture, not only that our votes are being recorded on machines that are wide open, an invitation to tampering, to human and machine error, not only that our votes are not being properly safeguarded, but then, in addition, if we want to have reassurance, if we want to verify the vote, we, the citizens, have to raise millions of dollars in order to scrutinize the vote, in order to have assurance. And add to that that there’s, you know, enormous bureaucratic hurdles to doing this.
So, you know, part of our intent here is not only to reassure the American people that we can have confidence in this vote or to find problems if there are problems, as the system is extremely vulnerable to, but we want to move forward and build this movement for verified voting for election integrity, which was really born out of the 2004 recount. For example, in 2004, the city of Toledo, largely the communities of color, filed for a recount because they felt like their votes were not being properly counted and respected. And what they found in that case, when they did a hand recount, was 90,000 votes that had not been counted simply because the voting counting machines, so-called optical scanners, had been miscalibrated. So they were not quite at the proper angle that they could actually see the vote and count the vote. There are innumerable cases where, when we look, we find problems. So it’s really important to look. But it’s also really important for us to change the way that we do this and to get rid of these electronic voting machines, which are an invitation to trouble across the board.
AG: We’re going to be speaking with Bruce Schneier in a moment about hacking. New York magazine said, in Wisconsin, Hillary Clinton faced 7—"received 7 percent fewer votes in counties that relied on electronic-voting machines compared with counties that used optical scanners and paper ballots."
But I wanted to ask you about a petition posted on the website of Margaret Flowers, the former Maryland Green Party candidate for Senate. The petition is titled "Greens Speak Out on Recount and Our Commitment to an Independent Party." It says, in part, "The decision to pursue a recount was not made in a democratic or a strategic way, nor did it respect the established decision making processes and structures of the Green Party of the United States. ... [T]his recount does not address the disenfranchisement of voters; it recounts votes that were already counted rather than restoring the suffrage of voters who were prevented from voting." The petition was signed by several prominent Green Party members and supporters, including Margaret Flowers, your former adviser Kevin Zeese, former Green Party vice-presidential candidate Rosa Clemente and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges. Jill, your running mate, Ajamu Baraka, did not sign the petition but has also come out against the recount. Can you respond to this criticism?
JS: Yes. You know, the Green Party has many things to do, and many people are not enthusiastic about verified voting, about election integrity. The Green Party has a broad set of commitments, including continuing the momentum and the grassroots organizing that came out of the campaign. And I’m actually very grateful that many people are continuing to do that and that that is their priority. I, myself, had great ambivalence about moving forward with this.
In 2006, I ran for secretary of state here in my home state, in Massachusetts, so I have a long-standing commitment to voting integrity. And it’s not just counting votes and getting rid of these very problematic voting machines. It’s also ensuring that every—every American has a constitutional right to vote. And Donald Trump said the opposite of what has happened. The problem is not that people were voting illegally, but rather that people were stripped from the voter rolls through—through things like Interstate Crosscheck, also through the use of voter ID. Now, that’s not addressed in this case, but this case is a launching pad for a broader agenda that includes ensuring that we have a democratic right to vote, a constitutional right to vote, ensuring that we have open debates so that voters can actually be informed and empowered to make wise choices. And another priority is to ending fear-based voting through ranked-choice voting, like the state of Maine just passed, which means you can go into the voting booth and rank your choices, knowing that your first choice will be—if it loses, your vote will be reassigned to your second choice. This is part of a critical voting agenda, as well as getting rid of the Electoral College. So there are many things that need to be done. This is a point of departure which actually allows us Greens to lead the way forward on a critical and immediate need.
AG: So, Dr. Jill Stein, some of the criticism of people even within your own party, though you have the right as a presidential candidate to ask for this on your own, has been that you’re only choosing states—Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan—where Hillary Clinton lost, not close states where she won. And they’re saying you’re serving the very party that you were so fiercely critical of during the campaign.
JS: And I remain fiercely critical of that party. That party should be—
AG: They are joining you in this, is that right, in supporting your call for recount?
JS: Not in any coordinated way. We stepped up to the plate, because they had not. They did not express their support until the deadline had passed for filing in Wisconsin. Our lawyers are communicating so that they do not legally get in each other’s way, but we are otherwise not coordinating. And as I say, I’ve been committed to this issue for many years. So, for me, this is kind of like breathing. It was something that would have been virtually impossible for me not to do. Throughout the campaign, when I was asked whether I would stand up and call for a recount if there was cause to be concerned about the reliability and the credibility of the vote, I always said, yes, I would, and it had nothing to do with who won. And you may recall that Michigan did not actually—was not decided as a Trump state until we had already announced that we would be launching a recount in Michigan. It could have gone to Hillary—to Hillary Clinton.
AG: And what about—
JS: And we would have still challenged it.
AG: What about those who are saying you’re using this as a fundraising device? You’ve raised almost double—and I also want to ask if this has surprised you—than you raised in your entire campaign for this recount. And that, ultimately, you may use these for local Green Party candidates, what some have criticized—
JS: No, no, you can’t do that. Right, no, this is—FEC rules require that a recount be funded by a dedicated recount account, and the money can only be used for that. So, it would be great to have access to that money, but we don’t have access to that money. And since Wisconsin raised the price tag on us, there is no way that there will be residual money. This is all going into the recount.
AG: On Monday—
JS: And it’s funded by small donors. You know, this is a grassroots movement all across America—140,000. Yes, I was absolutely flabbergasted, because we launched this the day before Thanksgiving. Who in their right mind was going to be paying attention to, you know, the call for a recount and fundraising over the Thanksgiving weekend?
AG: Is it—
JS: But that’s exactly what happened, because people are starving for something positive to do to actually begin to take back this promise of democracy.
AG: Is it all—is it all small donors?
JS: Yes, it is, because we are following campaign finance laws, like as if for our campaign. So, the average donation is $45. One-half of 1 percent of donors contributed more than $1,000. And the absolute maximum is the maximum you can contribute to a political campaign, which is $2,700.
AG: On Monday—
JS: So there is no deep account here for deep pockets.
AG: Monday night, I was at the Free Library in Philadelphia interviewing Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, and I asked him about your recount effort.
Bernie Sanders: I think what most people expect is not much will happen, but we will see. But it touches on—so, in other words, all that they are doing is what happens all of the time. Nothing new about that. Recounts take place. When I was elected mayor, there was a recount. Right now in North Carolina, the Republican governor, who appears to be losing, wants a recount. Not a new idea. But I’ll tell you what it touches on, why it is touching a nerve, is not because I believe that it’s going to reverse the results. I don’t think that’s the case. But this is what people, especially with all of this barrage of attacks on websites and so forth, are really wondering, whether when they vote, is their vote legitimate? You know, and there’s talk: Have the Russians interfered in this thing? So that’s what it will deal, which takes us to another issue. And I wouldn’t have said this a few years ago, but I will say it tonight. I was just researching this. You know, in Canada, they still do their voting with paper ballots. And maybe it takes an extra hour or two to get the results out to the media, but they manage to survive. And I kind of think we should go back to paper ballots, lock them up. But I think—I think what this suit is about is touching on that issue and trying to see if the results end up being significantly different than what we were announced on election night.
AG: That’s Bernie Sanders on Monday night. Jill Stein, your response?
JS: He’s absolutely right. And this should be built into our election system, that we should not be voting on these very tamper-friendly, error-prone machines in the first place. We should be voting on paper ballots that can be counted by these optical scanners, but they have to be checked with automatic audits. This should be, you know, built-in reassurance that should be part of our voting system. And whenever races are very close, there should be an automatic recount. And when there is suggestions of foul play or irregularities, there should be a recount, like in the Democratic Party primary. Bernie Sanders should have been the beneficiary of a recount and a potential challenge because of the stripping of voter rolls in Brooklyn, the failure to count hundreds of thousands of votes in California, that the Democratic—this is about holding the Democratic Party accountable to the same standard that we’re looking at in three Republican victory states. The reason we’re looking in those states is because you want to look at states that meet the criteria for high potential, high likelihood for having had error. And that means they’re razor-thin margins, the results went the opposite of what was anticipated, and they have some kind of a built-in vulnerability. And it happened that the three most significant states were those three. We didn’t know which way Michigan was going to go, but it turned out to go Republican. But if we have findings, then we have a case to go into many more states, including Democratic states.
AG: Finally—finally, Jill Stein, are you somewhat disconcerted by not having the full support of the Green Party, and particularly Ajamu Baraka, your vice-presidential candidate, running mate, who said on CNN it’s potentially—the recounts are potentially a dangerous move?
JS: You know, the Green Party is a very—you’ve got a lot of opinions, and a lot of people are very well informed and very passionate. And we don’t often do things in the Green Party that we have uniform consensus on. So, I think, as this goes forward, that there will be more room for dialogue. And I think as we begin to see results that actually translate into a more secure voting system, that minds will change. The Greens, you know, are very focused on economic justice, racial justice, climate justice, you name it. And as a—for many Greens, especially newer Greens, electoral integrity has not been a priority. So I think, for many people, it’s a learning experience, and it’s a dialogue. And I think it’s—you know, it’s great that many people are continuing to do the other work, which is very important for us to continue.
AG: Well, I want to thank you for being with us, Dr. Jill Stein, the 2016 and 2012 presidential nominee of the Green Party, leading the effort for an election recount in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Later in the show, we’ll be speaking with cybersecurity researcher Bruce Schneier on why our voting system is vulnerable to hackers. But first, Harvard Law professor Lawrence Lessig will join us to talk about why he feels the Electoral College should choose Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. We’ll be back with him in a minute.