The recount of the presidential election ended on Wednesday night as abruptly as it had begun. By Thursday, workers were packing away canvas bags of ballots, board records and tables and chairs. A legal battle halted proceedings before all of Michigan’s votes were counted again, but not before a flood of perplexing peculiarities emerged. An effort to recount the votes here and in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin led by Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, was never viewed as very likely to change Donald J. Trump’s election to the presidency, but it revealed something else in stark terms: 16 years after a different presidential recount in Florida dragged on for five agonizing weeks, bringing the nation close to a constitutional crisis, recounts remain a tangle of dueling lawyers, hyperpartisanship and claims of flawed technology. States still have vastly different systems for calling recounts and for carrying them out. Counting standards are inconsistent from state to state, and obscure provisions, like one in Michigan that deems some precincts not “recountable,” threaten to raise more public doubt about elections than confidence. Some of the most basic questions — is it better to count by hand, or with a machine? — have not been settled.
National: Secret CIA assessment says Russia was trying to help Trump win White House | The Washington Post
The CIA has concluded in a secret assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win the presidency, rather than just to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system, according to officials briefed on the matter. Intelligence agencies have identified individuals with connections to the Russian government who provided WikiLeaks with thousands of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and others, including Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, according to U.S. officials. Those officials described the individuals as actors known to the intelligence community and part of a wider Russian operation to boost Trump and hurt Clinton’s chances. “It is the assessment of the intelligence community that Russia’s goal here was to favor one candidate over the other, to help Trump get elected,” said a senior U.S. official briefed on an intelligence presentation made to U.S. senators. “That’s the consensus view.”
What does democracy look like? On Wednesday, a rubber thumb. As a controversial recount of Michigan’s presidential election entered its third day, the rubber thumb — kind of like the finger part of a rubber glove, but with nubs — was in high demand at Detroit’s Cobo Center. Recount workers lucky enough to claim one of those humble accessories could page quickly through stacks of ballots, hastening the painstaking rounds of counting and sorting needed to recount an election. First challenge: Determine whether any given bundle of ballots is recountable. That means counting some ballot boxes, each containing hundreds of the paper slips, two and three times before even beginning to determine for whom each ballot was cast, all under the patient eyes of volunteer observers from three presidential campaigns. Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein lost by an insurmountable 2 million votes, but asked for the recount because, she says, she’s concerned about the integrity of Michigan elections. She’s not the only one — University of Michigan computer scientist Alex Halderman has identified vulnerabilities in the system that it’s not currently designed to ward off, and President-elect Donald Trump himself has claimed that millions of illegal votes were cast in the election he won. A federal judge halted Michigan’s presidential recount late Wednesday night, but an appeal is expected.
With their call for a recount in Florida, a group of voters may hope to encourage a push for change in voting procedure – even if the recount itself is a long shot. Citing concerns about hacking, malfunctioning voting machines, and voters being turned away, three central Florida voters have brought a lawsuit against President-elect Donald Trump, Florida Gov. Rick Scott, and the Sunshine State’s 29 Republican electors. They are calling for a hand recount of all paper ballots, to be paid for by the defendants. The group’s lawyer, Clint Curtis, acknowledged that Mr. Trump, Governor Scott, and others can ignore the recount request entirely. But the suit, the latest of several to question the 2016 election results, may strengthen calls to address election issues.
The Michigan Supreme Court has denied Green Party candidate Jill Stein’s appeal to restart the statewide presidential recount, exhausting what’s likely the last legal option for the Stein campaign. In a 3-2 order issued Friday evening, the court ruled a recount petition in Michigan “must allege both that fraud or mistake exists and that the alleged fraud or mistake caused the candidate to be aggrieved.” The majority order concurs with a State Court of Appeals ruling that ordered Michigan’s Board of State Canvassers, which certifies election results and handles other election-related issues, to reject the recount on grounds that Stein was not sufficiently “aggrieved” as required under state statute earlier this week. The Michigan Supreme Court justices split along partisan lines, with all three Republican-nominated judges ordering a denial of Stein’s appeal. The two Democratic-nominated judges, Richard Bernstein and Bridget McCormack, each wrote dissenting opinions.
Nevada: Partial recount of Nevadans’ presidential ballots confirms Nov. 8 results | Las Vegas Review-Journal
A limited recount of presidential ballots cast in Nevada confirmed the results of the Nov. 8 election and eliminated the possibility of a statewide recount, the secretary of state’s office said Thursday. The partial recount in 92 precincts, requested and paid for by independent candidate Roque “Rocky De La Fuente, “yielded no change in the number of votes cast for him,” said Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske. De La Fuente, who came in dead last in the presidential race in Nevada, said he requested the recount because he was concerned about the integrity of the vote. The recounts did result in nine fewer votes for Democrat Hillary Clinton and six fewer for Republican Donald Trump, but no other changes were identified, the Secretary of State’s Office said in a news release. De La Fuente received 2,552 votes, or 0.23 percent, in the election. Clinton won the state with 47.9 percent, beating Republican President-elect Donald Trump by nearly 2.5 percent.
Pennsylvania: Decision coming Monday on Stein’s request for statewide recount | Philadelphia Inquirer
A Philadelphia judge said he will rule Monday on the Green Party-backed petition for a statewide Pennsylvania recount, but signaled that the clock may be running out because the state must certify its election results for the Electoral College vote. U.S. District Judge Paul S. Diamond announced his plans after a Friday afternoon hearing at which supporters of Green Party nominee Jill Stein continued their bid for the review, citing potential security vulnerabilities in electronic voting machines statewide. Diamond, however, seemed most concerned with the limited time Stein’s lawyers had left him to act, by waiting nearly a month after the election to file their lawsuit. Any court-ordered delay in meeting the Tuesday certification deadline could put Pennsylvania’s electoral votes in jeopardy when the Electoral College convenes Dec. 19.
A U.S. judge in Wisconsin on Friday rejected a request by President-elect Donald Trump supporters to stop a recount of election votes while the Michigan Supreme Court denied an appeal by Green Party candidate Jill Stein to restart the state’s recount. The results of the Nov. 8 election have been challenged in three states by Green Party candidate Jill Stein, who finished fourth in the presidential poll. In Pennsylvania, the third state, a judge said he would rule on Monday on whether to allow a recount to go forward. Even if the recounts were carried out, they would be extremely unlikely to change the outcome of Trump’s win over Democrat Hillary Clinton.
The Gambia: Soldiers on the streets in Gambia as unrest grows after president rejects election result | The Independent
Gambia’s president-elect said on Saturday that the outgoing leader who now rejects his defeat has no constitutional authority to call for another election, and he called on President Yahya Jammeh to help with a smooth transition in the interest of the tiny West African country. Jammeh’s surprise reversal late Friday was certain to spark outrage among the tens of thousands who took to the streets after Adama Barrow was announced the president-elect in the 1 December vote, shouting “Freedom!” The United States and others quickly rejected Jammeh’s new stance, and the African Union on Saturday called for security forces to remain neutral. Soldiers were in the streets of the capital, Banjul, as Gambians closed down shops in fear of unrest. Barrow said the Independent Electoral Commission is the only competent authority to declare a winner. “It was already done so, and I am the president-elect,” Barrow said. “President Jammeh is the outgoing president. He is to hand over executive powers to me when his term is expires in January.”
Ghana: Elections Marred by Attempt to Hack Website and Calls for the President to Concede | Foreign Policy
Ghana’s presidential elections Wednesday started off surprisingly well, with voters lining up hours early at some polling places — using stones to save their place in line — and congratulations pouring in from the (real) U.S. Embassy in Ghana. Fears of election-day violence and confusion seemed misplaced. Then it all came apart. First, the electoral commission’s website was victim to a hack attempt. Also, an image circulating on Twitter said that the New Patriotic Party’s Nana Akufo-Addo had won the day, forcing the commission to frantically tweet for voters to ignore the fake news. Though votes were still being counted Thursday, the Akufo-Addo camp announced Thursday that, according to its tabulations, Akufo-Addo did in fact have a strong lead. They called for the incumbent, President John Mahama, who’s been in power since 2012, to concede. That didn’t sit well. Mahama’s camp called the calls for concession “treasonable.”
National: Jill Stein: US election recount is vital to reform our broken voting system | The Guardian
The election didn’t end on 8 November, it just morphed into a crisis whose resolution is not in sight. Hillary Clinton’s campaign was impacted by an October surprise delivered by a partisan FBI, but November was not short on surprises, and there may yet be one in December. A little more than a week ago, while people were wondering what it would take to get the Clinton campaign to pursue a recount, Jill Stein’s campaign amazed everyone by taking on the job. Exuberance for the idea immediately inspired small donors to contribute $6.5m in about 48 hours. Stein launched the recounts in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania at the behest of election experts John Bonifaz and J Alex Halderman, who said the irregularities they saw merited further investigation. Those errors include discrepancies in Donald Trump’s favor between the usually reliable exit polls and the votes in several swing states, beyond what some experts consider the margin of error and other anomalies. One they noted was that in Wisconsin, Clinton received 7% fewer votes in counties with electronic voting machines than in counties that have paper ballots. In Michigan, more than 80,000 ballots were said to be blank where the votes for president would be marked, twice the number left blank in the previous election, and several times the margin between the two candidates.
National: Wait times at polls in 2016 election improved in several key states, new survey results show | phys.org
While many voters reported long lines at polling locations around the country during the 2012 presidential election, this year the overall amount of time people had to wait to vote improved significantly, according to a new survey examining voter experience during the 2016 presidential election. Charles Stewart III, the Kenan Sahin Distinguished Professor of Political Science at MIT, today presented the preliminary findings of the Survey on the Performance of American Elections (SPAE), during a conference hosted by the Pew Charitable Trusts on the evolution of voting administration since the 2012 election. Stewart found that in a number of states where voters experienced some of the longest waiting times in the 2012 presidential election—including South Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland—there was notable improvement in 2016. In Florida, Stewart found “tremendous improvement in terms of how long people reported that they waited to vote.” The findings show that “all the effort over the last four years that was invested in dealing with problems President Obama identified with lines, those efforts appear to have paid off,” Stewart says.
Editorials: A Post-Election Legal Challenge to the Electoral College | Jacob Gershman/Wall Street Journal
President-elect Donald Trump is weeks away from taking the oath of office, but for two Colorado presidential electors, the 2016 contest remains contested. The electors, who are Democrats vehemently opposed to Mr. Trump in the White House, have filed a lawsuit challenging the winner-takes-all system for casting electoral votes.
Reports the Denver Post: Two Democratic electors who pledged to support Democrat Hillary Clinton — the winner of the state’s nine Electoral College votes — now want to “vote their conscience and do their constitutional duty as intended by the framers,” said Jason Wesoky, the attorney who filed the suit. Polly Baca, a former state lawmaker, and Robert Nemanich are among the “Moral Electors” hoping to persuade Republican electors in other states to vote for a third-party candidate to keep Trump from receiving 270 electoral votes — and offering to shift their Democratic votes to a consensus pick.
Georgia: Secretary of State’s office says it has traced an attempted voter hack to the Department of Homeland Security | PCWorld
Georgia’s secretary of state says the state was hit with an attempted hack of its voter registration database from an IP address linked to the federal Department of Homeland Security. The allegation by Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp is one of the more bizarre charges to come up in the recent spate of alarms about voting-system hacks. He said in a Facebook post on Thursday that he had been made aware of the failed attempt to breach the firewall protecting Georgia’s voter registration database. The attack was traced to an Internet Protocol address associated with DHS, he said. This morning I sent a letter to DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson demanding to know why,” he said in the post. The DHS said it had received the letter. “We are looking into the matter. DHS takes the trust of our public and private sector partners seriously, and we will respond to Secretary Kemp directly,” the department said in a statement.
Michigan: Election Recount Halted, Jill Stein Likely To Appeal Ruling | International Business Times
A federal judge ordered Michigan’s Board of Elections on Wednesday to stop the state’s electoral recount after a state court ruling found Green Party candidate Jill Stein had no legal standing to request recount of votes. U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith said “there is no basis” for him to ignore the state court ruling that said the recount should never have started. Stein’s campaign condemned the judgment and promised to challenge the Michigan Court of Appeals decision. Republicans have argued that the three-day recount must end as the state appeals court found that Stein, who finished fourth in Michigan on Nov. 8, did not have a chance of winning even after a recount and therefore is not an “aggrieved” candidate.
Sanilac County Clerk Denise McGuire said she hasn’t yet canceled her recount team. While a federal judge late Wednesday halted the hand recount of 4.8 million ballots cast for president in Michigan after days of conflicting court decisions, McGuire isn’t quite sure the wild ride is over. “We are scheduled for Sunday, I am waiting until tomorrow before I call the recount team members to cancel,” she said in an email. “The Bureau of Elections’ message was they didn’t expect it to resume and I want to make sure further appeals are not filed today.” St. Clair County was scheduled to begin the recount of its nearly 80,000 ballots Thursday morning. Following orders from the state that came after the judge’s decision, County Clerk Jay DeBoyer called off his workers planning to come to the Blue Water Convention Center. “We are not going to turn the ballots back to the local clerks and we are not going to tear down our room any time soon,” he said.
Green Party candidate Jill Stein is in line for a big check from the State of Michigan after the recount she requested was stopped by a federal judge and the state Board of Canvassers after only three days of counting ballots. Under state law, Stein had to pay $125 per precinct — or $973,250 — to count Michigan’s 7,786 in-person and absentee voting precincts. That check was delivered to state officials when she requested the recount last week. Now, with only a fraction of the recount completed, Michigan’s Secretary of State is prepared to refund a portion of that amount, said Fred Woodhams, spokesman for Secretary of State Ruth Johnson. Stein will have to pay for the precincts in Michigan that were counted, but she will not be charged for the precincts that couldn’t be counted because of problems with the ballot containers. When the recount was stopped Wednesday after a ruling from U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith, 26 counties had started counting their ballots.
Supporters of Green Party candidate Jill Stein and the statewide presidential recount she requested in Michigan aren’t thrilled with state and federal court rulings that shut the process down as of Thursday morning. The Green Party is expected to hold an “emergency rally” in front of the state Supreme Court building 2 p.m. Thursday at 925 W. Ottawa St. to protest a decision they consider unfair and potentially harmful to Michigan voters. “The discrepancies we’ve discovered while counting votes so far are precisely the reason we need a recount in the first place,” Green Party member Lou Novak said in a statement. “We will not back down from this fight now. The Michigan Supreme Court must do its job.”
Michigan’s Board of State Canvassers canceled plans Thursday to hold a formality vote on ending a statewide recount of the presidential election after a federal judge effectively shut down the recount Wednesday night. The panel of two Republicans and two Democrats approved an order on Wednesday that instructed state election officials to stop the recount if U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith lifted a restraining order that triggered the recount on Monday. “It was determined that their vote yesterday addressed the order from the Court of Appeals, so there’s no need to vote and the recount is stopped,” said Fred Woodhams, spokesman for Secretary of State Ruth Johnson. As a result, the state’s certified results from Nov. 28 stand, Woodham said Thursday. President-elect Donald Trump won Michigan by 10,704 votes over Democrat Hillary Clinton, a 47.5 percent to 47.3 percent victory.
Pennsylvania: State Attorney General fights Green Party recount bid in federal court | Associated Press
Calling it a “fishing expedition,” Pennsylvania election officials on Thursday asked a federal judge to throw out a Green Party-backed lawsuit that seeks a recount of paper ballots cast in the Nov. 8 presidential election and an inspection to determine whether election software was hacked. The state attorney general’s office, representing Secretary of State Pedro Cortes, a Democrat, attacked the recount effort by Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein as an effort to undo the presidential election won by Republican Donald Trump. Stein lacks the necessary standing to challenge the election result because any change will not make her the winner, the state’s lawyers wrote. It is “rank speculation” to suggest that Russian hackers somehow flipped the vote, they wrote. And Stein’s challenge is based on unfounded suspicions and acknowledges that it’s possible no evidence of hacking even exists, because sophisticated malware can be designed to disappear after carrying out its task.
Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton by more than 22,000 votes in the state. Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein requested the recount to determine if election machines were hacked. Two pro-Trump groups, the Great America PAC and the Stop Hillary PAC, filed a federal lawsuit Dec. 1, the day the recount began, seeking to stop the process. Judge James Peterson has scheduled a hearing Friday in Madison.
We’re one week into the historic Wisconsin recount, prompted in no small part by widespread concerns about the reliability of electronic voting machines and their susceptibility to tampering, fraud, and computer hacking. The difference in Wisconsin is currently about 22,000 votes, or 0.75%. Patriotic, democracy-loving Americans share a common value of wanting to see that every vote is counted fairly, accurately, and honestly, especially in such a close and crucial election as this one. Let’s get to know these machines better. The optical scanning computers used in Wisconsin and other states, especially the infamous ES&S DS-200, too often fail to count votes where voter intent could be discerned by hand. These are officially called “undervotes” or “overvotes,” but in many instances could be called “not counted votes.” A lightly marked ballot filled out by an elderly or handicapped person, a checkmark instead of a filled-in oval, or even a ballot cast using the wrong pen color can be missed or “no votes” in a machine count but real, legal votes in a hand count. In Florida, a shocking 1.67% of the people wearing an “I Voted” sticker didn’t actually. In Michigan, where the margin is only 11,000 votes, there are 75,000 not counted votes in Detroit alone. Hand counts will identify and include legal votes missed by the machine; anyone who says otherwise is simply wrong.
After hackers infiltrated the German Parliament’s computer network in May 2015, it took nearly a year before the country’s intelligence agency concluded that the attack was most likely the work of their Russian counterparts. Last week, when 900,000 Germans lost access to internet and telephone services, it took a matter of hours before politicians began pointing fingers at Moscow. Berlin is now concerned that Germany will become the next focus of Moscow’s campaign to destabilize Western democracies as national elections approach next year. Those fears intensified after the Obama administration accused the Russian government of attacking Democratic Party emails during the American presidential campaign.
German intelligence says Russia is trying to destabilize German society with an intensifying campaign of propaganda, disinformation, and cyberattacks ahead of federal elections next year. “We see aggressive and increased cyberspying and cyberoperations that could potentially endanger German government officials, members of parliament, and employees of democratic parties,” Hans-Georg Maassen, head of the domestic BfV intelligence agency, said in a December 8 statement. The warning came two months after U.S. intelligence publicly accused Russia of directing cyberattacks against American political figures and organizations in order to interfere with the U.S. electoral process ahead of the November 8 presidential election.
Hundreds of customers rush out of high end stores in one of Romania’s biggest shopping centres, clutching Christmas gift bags and pushing trolleys through the busy car park. If any are troubled by the murky history of this once quiet farming community, 7km north of Bucharest city centre, they do not show it. Just across the street from the gleaming Baneasa shopping complex is a Communist-era collective farm now at the centre of a bribery probe linking minor royalty with senior politicians poised for success in Sunday’s general election. The Baneasa farm case is one of thousands that Romania’s powerful anti-corruption agency has opened this year, in what has become the largest ever anti-graft clampdown in eastern Europe. According to prosecutors from the DNA, the national anti-corruption agency, officials were bribed to sign the valuable land over to Prince Paul-Philippe, who claims ancestral ownership, as part of illegal land restitutions she estimates cost the state €145m. The prince has denied any wrongdoing.
The head of the British intelligence agency MI6, Alex Younger, has said cyber-attacks, propaganda and subversion from hostile states pose a “fundamental threat” to European democracies, including the UK. In a rare speech by an MI6 chief while in office, Younger did not specifically name Russia but left no doubt that this was the target of his remarks. Russia has been accused of interfering in the US presidential election and there are concerns it could do the same in French and German elections next year. He did mention Russia in relation to Syria, portraying Russian military support for the country’s president, Bashar al-Assad, in the takeover of Aleppo and elsewhere as potentially creating a long-term problem that could increase radicalisation. “In Aleppo, Russia and the Syrian regime seek to make a desert and call it peace. The human tragedy is heartbreaking,” Younger said.