Election 2016

Greens Heading Into Federal Court on Monday to Seek Statewide Pennsylvania Recount

Media reports that they pulled the plug are wrong.

Photo Credit: http://www.jill2016.com/wireports

The Greens' fight for a presidential recount in Pennsylvania is anything but over, a top lawyer for Jill Stein’s presidential campaign said late Saturday, saying it plans to file a federal suit on Monday seeking “emergency relief” after facing anti-democratic, unconstitutional obstacles in the state.

“Make no mistake – the Stein campaign will continue to fight for a statewide recount in Pennsylvania,” said Jonathan Abady, the lead counsel to the Stein recount efforts. “We are committed to this fight to protect the civil and voting rights of all Americans.”

Mainstream media incorrectly reported Saturday that the Greens' decision to withdraw its suit seeking a statewide recount in Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court meant that Stein had decided to call off the effort to verify the vote in Pennsylvania, one of three states that gave an apparent Electoral College majority to Donald Trump.

The more complete picture is the Greens are turning to federal court because of obstacles faced in the state—such as a judge in one suburban Philadelphia county who threw out scores of notarized citizen recount petitions without comment, to other instances of violating a constitutional process.  

“Over the past several days, it has become clear that the barriers to verifying the vote in Pennsylvania are so pervasive and that the state court system is so ill-equipped to address this problem that we must seek federal court intervention,” Abady said. “As a result, on Monday the Stein campaign will escalate our campaign in Pennsylvania and file for emergency relief in federal court, demanding a statewide recount on constitutional grounds.”

The move to federal court comes as a parallel effort has unfolded across the state. For the past week, hundreds of volunteers in Pennsylvania have set in motion a citizen-initiated recount effort. Under state law, a recount can be undertaken if three voters from any precinct sign a petition. The Greens have turned in hundreds and hundreds of petition for citizen-initiated recounts, racing against a closing five-day filing window that varied from county to county. Those recounts, which, amount to a patchwork quilt compared to what’s unfolding in Wisconsin and Michigan, where state election officials are overseeing statewide recounts, will still continue, the campaign said.

“Stein’s campaign intends to continue its county-by-county recount effort in Pennsylvania,” Larry Otter, one of Stein’s Pennsylvania-based lawyers told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “A recount in Philadelphia is already underway in 75 of the city’s more than 1,600 divisions. Judges in Bucks and Delaware counties will hear arguments this week on whether to grant recounts.”

The Wisconsin recount started Thursday, although Republicans filed a suit on Friday to stop it. The Michigan recount was supposed to start Friday, but the Trump campaign and Republican state attorney general filed motions and lawsuits to stop it, which has slowed that process. Barring court intervention, it is slated to begin early next week.

Recount Field Reports
Eyewitness reports from Wisconsin and Pennsylvania posted on Stein’s website describe a process that can be chaotic and frustrating in one location and efficient and professional in another.

“They will not be showing us the voter logs (the book where the voters sign in),” wrote Camille in Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania. “They will not be showing us the provisional ballots that were rejected, nor will they tell us how many were rejected nor why they were rejected. They refused to do a forensic audit and refused to let us check that the [security] seal of the PROM was intact.”  

“The clerks and tabulators were amazingly organized, polite and professional,” wrote Karen, from Dane County, Wisconsin, one of the bluest in the state. “Everything was sorted, marked, and counted twice per pile (without telling the second counter what number the first counter came to). In the first five wards of Waunakee, only three absentee or provisional ballots were rejected. One was a provisional ballot where the person had not brought proper i.d. to the polls. The lady never returned. Another rejected ballot was an absentee ballot with no witness address. The final rejected ballot was from someone who was not a registered voter and hadn’t filled out a provisional ballot. I did not see who these votes would have been for.”

However, other reports from election integrity activists not associated with the Stein campaign but who traveled from other states to observe saw things that concerned them. Under a state court ruling last week, Wisconsin county election offices can decided how to count the ballots—by hand or using the electronic scanners. The Stein campaign argued for hand counts.

“I would characterize Milwaukee County's operation as controlled chaos,” one legal observer wrote. “The operation is massive. They are located in a huge warehouse. The City of Milwaukee recount is being conducted in one large room and the suburban municipalities are conducting theirs in another. The canvass board meets in a spot between the two rooms using microphones so all can hear. Trump observers are aggressively challenging here but the board seems to be ruling on disputes in a way to honor voter intent and allow ballots to count whenever possible. For example, 519 ballots in one Milwaukee ward lacked clerk signatures and they ruled to count them. We seem to have a sufficient number of observers to cover all tables.

“We had a nice conversation with Clerk-Elect George Christianson, currently deputy clerk, and he agreed that a hand count would have been better,” the observer wrote. “At the least, he said, it would have been preferable to hand count some percentage of the precincts.”
 

 

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Steven Rosenfeld is a senior writing fellow of the Independent Media Institute, where he covers national political issues. He is the author of several books on elections, most recently Democracy Betrayed: How Superdelegates, Redistricting, Party Insiders, and the Electoral College Rigged the 2016 Election (March 2018, Hot Books).