De­tails about elec­tion re­count re­quest in Penn­syl­va­nia

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - NEWS - By Marc Levy

HARRISBURG >> A hear­ing has been sched­uled next week in a Green Par­ty­backed re­quest for a cour­tordered re­count of Penn­syl­va­nia’s Nov. 8 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion re­sult that cites a com­puter scientist’s con­clu­sion elec­tronic vot­ing ma­chines can be ma­nip­u­lated by mal­ware.

The Com­mon­wealth Court hear­ing was sched­uled for Dec. 5 in Harrisburg.

The court fil­ing on Mon­day said the 100-plus peo­ple at­tach­ing their names to the pe­ti­tion be­lieve the elec­tion re­sult to be “il­le­gal.” A lawyer in the ef­fort, Larry Ot­ter, said the fil­ing is un­prece­dented in Penn­syl­va­nia. The state’s top elec­tions of­fi­cial, Sec­re­tary of State Pe­dro Cortes, a Demo­crat, said there was no ev­i­dence of any sort of cy­ber­at­tacks or ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties in the elec­tion. A lawyer for the state Repub­li­can Party called the fil­ing “with­out any merit what­so­ever.”

At the same time, Green Party-backed vot­ers sought scores of precinct-level re­counts in var­i­ous coun­ties.

Here are an­swers to ques­tions about the re­count ef­fort:

Who won Penn­syl­va­nia?

Repub­li­can Don­ald Trump beat Demo­crat Hil­lary Clin­ton by about 71,000 bal­lots, or about 1 per­cent­age point, cap­tur­ing the state’s 20 elec­toral votes.

No Repub­li­can had won Penn­syl­va­nia since Ge­orge H.W. Bush in 1988, and no Demo­crat has won the White House with­out win­ning Penn­syl­va­nia since Harry Tru­man in 1948.

Green Party can­di­date Jill Stein drew less than 1 per­cent of the votes cast, fewer than 50,000, but is lead­ing the re­count charge.

What’s the point?

Stein has spear­headed a re­count ef­fort in Michi­gan, Penn­syl­va­nia and Wis­con­sin, states that have a his­tory of back­ing Democrats for pres­i­dent and where Trump won un­ex­pect­edly and rel­a­tively nar­rowly over Clin­ton.

Stein has said the pur­pose is 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.

Penn­syl­va­nia’s vot­ing ma­chines also have been crit­i­cized for their lack of a paper trail.

What’s the ev­i­dence?

The court papers filed Mon­day cite an af­fi­davit by Univer­sity of Michi­gan com­puter scientist Alex Hal­der­man stat­ing re­sults pro­duced by elec­tronic vot­ing ma­chines could’ve been ma­nip­u­lated by mal­ware.

The doc­u­ments say the ev­i­dence may be sup­ple­mented with the re­sults of scores of precinct-level re­counts being pur­sued by Green Party-backed vot­ers, pri­mar­ily in Philadelphia and Al­legheny, Bucks and Montgomery coun­ties. Penn­syl­va­nia has more than 9,000 precincts.

County of­fi­cials would need to en­sure the pa­per­work meets re­quire­ments be­fore a precinct re­count can pro­ceed. Al­legheny County sched­uled a re­count of 52 precincts on Dec. 5.

What Penn­syl­va­nia elec­tion of­fi­cials say

Cortes pre­dicted any re­count would change few votes.

“When ev­ery­thing is said and done, you’re go­ing to see that the re­sults are ac­cu­rate,” Cortes said. “Are they perfect? Did they miss one vote here or there? ... To see some­thing sys­temic that will change the out­come of the elec­tion, no, noth­ing like that I an­tic­i­pate will come out of the re­counts.”

Still, Penn­syl­va­nia is con­sid­ered one of the states most sus­cep­ti­ble to hack­ing be­cause 96 per­cent of its vot­ing ma­chines store votes elec­tron­i­cally.

Cortes has said Penn­syl­va­nia is im­mune from hack­ing be­cause its vot­ing ma­chines and tab­u­lat­ing sys­tems aren’t con­nected to the in­ter­net.

Hal­der­man said it’s ir­rel­e­vant whether ma­chines are con­nected to the in­ter­net: A for­eign gov­ern­ment could break into an elec­tion of­fice in a closely con­tested state and in­stall mal­ware on a com­puter that sup­plies the bal­lot de­sign to vot­ing ma­chines. Such mal­ware could shift a few per­cent­age points of the vote to a can­di­date and erase it­self af­ter polls close, Hal­der­man said.

What re­count pro­vi­sions are in the law?

Un­der state law, the state’s top elec­tions of­fi­cial must or­der coun­ties to re­count when one can­di­date wins by less than a half of a per­cent­age point. But the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion did not trig­ger the au­to­matic re­count.

The re­count re­quest filed by the Green Party-backed group cites a por­tion of state law that al­lows an elec­tion to be con­tested. Un­der this pro­vi­sion, the pe­ti­tioner must make le­git­i­mate claims of fraud or il­le­gal­ity that would def­i­nitely change the out­come, said Lawrence Tabas, the Repub­li­can Party’s elec­tion law spe­cial­ist.

How long can this go on?

The dead­line the­o­ret­i­cally is Dec. 19, when Penn­syl­va­nia’s 20 elec­tors of the Elec­toral Col­lege are sup­posed to cast their bal­lots for pres­i­dent.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.