- Views & Opinions
Voters backed by the Green Party have dropped their court case seeking to force a statewide recount of votes cast in Pennsylvania’s Nov. 8 presidential election.
The state, which has voted Democratic in the last six elections, gave Republican Donald Trump a one percent margin of victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton. About 49,000 more voters chose Trump out of the more than six million ballots cast in the state.
That’s a victory margin of .8 percent. A margin of less than .5 percent would have automatically triggered a recount under Pennsylvania law.
The decision to drop the lawsuit in Pennsylvania came today, just two days before a court hearing was scheduled in the case. The Associated Press reported that the Green Party-backed voters who filed the case said they “are regular citizens of ordinary means” and cannot afford the $1 million bond ordered to be paid to the court by 5 p.m. Monday.
Despite dropping the court case, Green Party-backed efforts to force recounts and analyze election software in scattered precincts were continuing.
In addition to Pennsylvania, Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein also has spearheaded efforts to force recounts in Michigan and Wisconsin, where one is already underway. All three states share a history of backing Democrats for president, but they were narrowly and unexpectedly won by Trump.
At the heart of concerns by Stein and others is whether Russian hacktivists flipped votes in electronic voting machines in the three states. Trump’s tiny margin of victory in those states proved decisive in handing him the White House.
Pennsylvania’s top elections official Secretary of State Pedro Cortes, a Democrat, has said there’s no evidence of cyberattacks or irregularities in the election. He predicted that a recount would change few votes.
But Stein had said the purpose of the recount effort 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.
In the weeks leading up to the election, hackers and social media trolls backed by the Russian government worked hard to discredit Clinton. Embarrassing messages hacked from the email account of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta were disseminated by Wikileaks and turned into headlines by virtually all of the nation’s mainstream media.
Fake stories spread damaging falsehoods about Clinton all over Facebook and other social media. One widely distributed post claimed that Pope Francis was supporting Trump. Teenagers in the Balkans produced the majority of the lies, some of which were picked up by news media as facts. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has vowed to address the problem, but critics complain that the steps he’s considering are vague and ineffective.
Hackers ignored Trump, who has repeatedly praised Russia’s Vladimir Putin — a virtual dictator of the nation who controls the media and jails or kills dissenters.
Republicans are leaving no stone unturned in their effort to halt the recount underway in Wisconsin and the one pending in Michigan.
Pro-Trump Republicans in Wisconsin on Dec. 2 filed filed a lawsuit to halt the recount underway in the state. But a federal court rejected the request their request for a temporary restraining order to stop the count, saying there’s no harm in allowing it to continue.
U.S. District Judge James Peterson scheduled a hearing for Dec. 9 on the underlying laws in the case.
Trump and his backers also filed suit to halt plans in Michigan to begin a recount there next week. Trump’s victory in Michigan was only 10,700 votes.
Michigan’s elections board is deadlocked on the request to prevent a recount, which means it will start next week unless the courts intervene.
Two Republicans voted Dec. 2 to prevent the recount, while two Democrats said it should proceed. Republican Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette asked the state Supreme Court on to intervene and stop the recount.
That motion is pending.