As lead counsel in Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein’s quest to have votes recounted in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, we have been in court for the past two weeks trying to verify the integrity of the election and make sure that no one hacked our democracy. Some have cast Stein as a spoiler, or alleged that the recounts were futile, because they didn’t change who won the election. But the recount would only be futile if we, as Americans, ignored the lessons of the past weeks and preserved the status quo that is our broken voting system. To start, we must recognize that what we saw in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania were recounts in name only. Though more than 161,000 people across the nation donated to the effort — and millions more demanded it with their voices — every imaginable financial, legal and political obstacle was thrown in the way of the recounts. In Michigan, a state court shut down the recount after only three days. In Wisconsin, instead of hand counting all paper ballots — the “gold standard” of election auditing — many ballots were fed into the same electronic machines used on Election Day, producing the same potentially faulty results.
In Pennsylvania, the state’s labyrinthine election system erected insurmountable barriers to even beginning a recount, requiring 27,474 voters in 9,158 districts to bring notarized petitions to county election boards, in time for shifting, divergent and secret deadlines. One court demanded that the 100-plus voters who petitioned for a recount post a $1 million bond to move forward with their case.
In an election tarnished by unreliable, insecure and unverifiable voting machines, ordinary Americans should at least be able to make sure their votes are counted, especially in states with razor-thin margins.
Beyond the obstacles to the recounts themselves were the irregularities and anomalies we uncovered while counting. The recounts did not confirm the integrity or security of our voting system; they revealed its vulnerability.