After a divisive election, with record levels of public distrust for a political system dominated by Super Pacs and lobbyists, ordinary Americans joined together to begin healing our wounded democracy – by verifying the vote in three key states. For three weeks, a historic recount campaign pushed forward in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, defying political blockades, bureaucratic hurdles, legal maneuvering and financial intimidation. This unprecedented effort by more than 10,000 volunteers and 161,000 donors coalesced in a matter of days. It affirmed the determination of the American people to raise the bar for our democracy. At its core, the recount essentially asked one question: do we have a voting system we can trust, that is accurate secure and just, and free from modern-day Jim Crow in our elections? The answer, we found, is a resounding “no”.
From the outset, the recount was met with resistance at every turn. In Pennsylvania, only a small minority of precincts initiated a recount due to obsolete, chaotic rules requiring more than 27,000 citizens to file notarized affidavits by undisclosed deadlines in order to conduct a statewide recount. Reliance on paperless electronic voting machines (“DREs”) for 80% of Pennsylvania voters meant that there were no ballots to recount for most of the state in any case.
And despite a judicial opinion in Wisconsin that a hand recount was the “gold standard”, nearly half of the votes in that state were recounted by the same flawed machines. In Detroit, rules forbid recounting in nearly 60% of precincts where the vote total diverged from the voter list. Unconscionable financial costs compounded the bureaucratic hurdles. In Wisconsin, a filing fee of $1.1m was raised to $3.5m without explanation. In Michigan, state politicians threatened up to $5m in additional costs after an initial filing fee nearing $1m.
Despite these obstacles, the recount revealed shocking flaws in our election itself. In Detroit, 87 optical scanners malfunctioned on election day. Michigan’s unprecedented 75,000 blank votes for president, many centering on Detroit, is seven-fold greater than Trump’s margin of victory.