Election 2017

Jill Stein’s Pennsylvania recount request: Federal judge to rule by Monday

Federal Judge Paul Diamond heard arguments today.

Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein holds a press conference following a court hearing in Philadelphia on Friday, Dec. 9, 2016. Stein filed a federal lawsuit for a recount of Pennsylvania votes.

Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein holds a press conference following a court hearing in Philadelphia on Friday, Dec. 9, 2016. Stein filed a federal lawsuit for a recount of Pennsylvania votes.

Anna Orso

The computer science expert whose opinions catapulted presidential election recounts into the national spotlight today admitted in a federal courtroom in Philadelphia that there’s no evidence Pennsylvania’s voting systems were hacked.

Meanwhile, an expert witness testifying on behalf of the GOP — which is working to protect electors for President-elect Donald Trump — said the likelihood that Pennsylvania’s voting system was hacked is about as likely as aliens living among us. It’s possible, but there’s no evidence to show it’s happening.

Federal Judge Paul Diamond today heard testimony from computer science experts and oral arguments in a lawsuit filed by Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein against the Pennsylvania Dept. of State. Stein’s campaign is on a crusade to force presidential election recounts in Pennsylvania, as well as in Michigan and Wisconsin — all three states that were won by Trump. The Michigan recount was halted by another federal judge on Wednesday.

Diamond plans to rule by Monday morning.

In Pennsylvania, Stein and her team are seeking the following: A hand recount of one precinct each in 17 counties in Pennsylvania that use optical scan voting machines, AKA the ones that leave a paper trail. They also want a forensic analysis of central election computer systems in six of the largest Pennsylvania counties, including Philadelphia. That analysis wouldn’t be of every voting machine, but of the central system which programs them.

Stein’s New York attorney Ilann Maazel argued that Pennsylvania’s voting systems, which he claims are susceptible to hacking, are effectively disenfranchising voters in violation of the United States constitution. To show that, he brought in computer science expert J. Alex Halderman (the guy who wrote that Medium post), who admitted under cross examination that there’s no hard evidence suggesting Pennsylvania’s election systems were hacked.

But Diamond seemed more concerned about a different type of disenfranchisement — one that would possibly deem all six million votes cast in Pennsylvania for the presidential election moot if the state fails to certify its electors in time before the Electoral College meets on Dec. 19 to cast their ballots.

The issue at hand: If Diamond agrees by Monday morning to give Stein and her team what they’re asking for, it could delay the process of Pennsylvania certifying its electors before they must cast their ballots for president on Dec. 19. Worst-case scenario, that would leave it up to the Pennsylvania legislature to pick electors — and all six million PA voters would be effectively disenfranchised.

The plaintiffs say the recount could take a day, maybe two tops. Defendants say there’s no way, as elections officials in counties with recounts taking place need to recruit and train counters and then perform the actual task of recounting. They said there’s no way it could be completed before Dec. 13.

But today’s two-hour hearing was largely taken up by dueling computer science experts. One was Halderman, who said he believes there is a “significant likelihood” the voting systems in Pennsylvania were hacked. But that doesn’t jibe with his Nov. 23 Medium post, in which he wrote “I believe the most likely explanation is that the polls were systematically wrong, rather than that the election was hacked.”

Meanwhile, the defense representing the Pennsylvania Republican party as well as the state of Pennsylvania, Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence called Michael Shamos, an attorney, consultant and former Pennsylvania voting systems examiner who testified that there’s a small chance a hack occurred.

Shamos said a widespread hack of Pennsylvania’s voting systems isn’t completely impossible, but is “as likely as the fact that androids from outer space are living among us as humans.”

Toward the end of the hearing, Diamond chided the plaintiffs for waiting until the eleventh hour to file their lawsuit. Rather than filing it the day after the election, they waited until Nov. 28. Maazel chalked it up to a bureaucratic system that makes it difficult to request a recount.

“You sat on your rights for some three weeks,” he told them, adding that had they filed earlier, “all of this could have been done at a much saner pace… all of this stuff you were well aware of well before the election.”

Want some more? Explore other Election 2017 stories.

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