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GOP Operatives Push Green Party, Kanye West Ballot Lines

Third-party candidates played a major role in Donald Trump's election in 2016, siphoning off voters from Hillary Clinton and helping Trump eke out wins by the narrowest of margins in enough swing states to hand him a victory — even as he lost the popular vote by three million ballots.

Four years later, with Trump down in the polls and facing the possibility of defeat, Republican operatives are making a last-ditch effort to try to recreate that same third-party effect, and are playing a behind-the-scenes role in numerous states to get Kanye West and Green Party presidential nominee Howie Hawkins onto state ballots.

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Second Green Party Candidate Exposed As Secret Republican

Scrambling for ways to hold on to power through November’s midterm cycle, it seems Republicans are opting to back phony Green Party candidates in hopes of confusing voters.

After all, in a close contest a Green Party candidate siphoning away a few thousands votes from Democrats could mean the difference between victory and defeat.

That strange scenario is currently playing out both in a New York House race and the Montana Senate race, where local Green Party candidates have been found out to be GOP operatives.

The latest instance involves incumbent Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY). It turns out the one-time Green candidate Michael Zack, who abruptly dropped out this month after questions were raised about his background, used to intern in Collins’ office.

“The former Green Party candidate in a Congressional race has been exposed as a Republican plant with ties to the GOP congressman he supposedly sought to challenge,” the Daily Beast reports.

Previous and since-removed social media posts tag Zack as a far-right conservative. He’s not someone committed to the Green Party agenda of ending war and advocating for clean energy.

“I have a hard time believing that someone in [Collins’s] campaign wasn’t aware of this,” said Erie County Green Party chairman Eric Jones. “The local Republican leadership is aware of this; it’s part of their playbook.”

Out in Montana, we saw the same type of duplicitous scheming.

“A man who registered as a Green Party candidate for Montana’s U.S. Senate race was on the state Republican Party’s payroll and heads a newly formed anti-tax group, according to a review of election documents,” the Great Falls Tribune reported last month.

The state’s Green Party coordinator told the newspaper it cannot deny anyone from filing a candidacy under the party’s name, but that they would do their best to vet all candidates.

Underhanded tricks like these are what Republicans during the Nixon era referred to as “rat fucking” — finding unique, unethical ways to try trip up your opponent.

It’s likely we’ll see more of these desperate maneuvers as Republicans brace for a possibly punishing November.

IMAGE: U.S. presidential election ballot in 2000, when Green Party candidate Ralph Nader drew enough voters to deny Al Gore the White House, despite his popular-vote majority.

After Court Blocks Request, Green Party Recount Bid Comes To A Close

(Reuters) – The recount effort by Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein in three U.S. states came to an end on Monday, after weeks of legal wrangling yielded only one electoral review in Wisconsin that favored Republican winner Donald Trump.

A federal judge in Pennsylvania rejected Stein’s request for a recount and an examination of that state’s voting machines for evidence of hacking in the Nov. 8 election won by Trump.

Meanwhile, Wisconsin election officials said on Monday they had completed their 10-day recount after finding that Trump’s margin of victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton had increased by 131 votes, bringing Trump’s total lead to 22,748.

“The final Wisconsin vote is in and guess what – we just picked up an additional 131 votes. The Dems and Green Party can now rest. Scam!” Trump said on Twitter.

Stein, who finished fourth, challenged the results in those two states as well as Michigan, where the state’s top court on Friday denied Stein’s last-ditch appeal to keep a recount going. All of those traditionally Democratic strongholds supported Trump over Clinton.

Even if all three recounts had taken place, they were unlikely to change the outcome.

Stein argued that the use in many Pennsylvania districts of electronic voting machines with no paper trail left the system vulnerable to hacking.

In a 31-page opinion, U.S. District Judge Paul Diamond in Philadelphia said it “borders on the irrational” to suspect hacking occurred in Pennsylvania. He noted that the deadline to certify the state’s electoral votes is Tuesday, making it impossible to hold a recount in time.

While there is no evidence of large-scale voting machine hacking, U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia targeted Clinton in a series of cyber attacks. Trump has questioned those reports.

In response to Diamond’s ruling, Stein said in a statement that Pennsylvanians’ right to have their votes counted had been “stripped from right under them.”

Trump won Pennsylvania by more than 44,000 votes and Michigan by more than 10,000 votes, according to the latest figures.

Despite winning the national popular vote by more than 2 percent, Clinton would have had to sweep those states to win the presidency under the U.S. Electoral College system, which assigns electoral votes state-by-state rather than by overall national totals.

(Reporting by Joseph Ax in New York; Additional reporting by Timothy McLaughlin in Chicago and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Editing by Andrew Hay and Lisa Shumaker)

IMAGE: Jill Stein, 2016 Green Party candidate for U.S. president, holds a rally and protest against stopping the recount of election ballots at Cobo Center in Detroit, Michigan December 10, 2016.  REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

U.S. Judge Rejects Bid For Pennsylvania Election Recount

(Reuters) – A U.S. judge in Pennsylvania on Monday rejected Green Party candidate Jill Stein’s request for a recount of the state’s ballots in last month’s presidential election and an examination of voting machines for evidence of hacking.

The decision came on the same day that Wisconsin election officials expect to complete that state’s recount, although the results will not change the outcome.

Stein, who finished fourth in the election behind President-elect Donald Trump, had challenged the results in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan. All of those traditionally Democratic strongholds supported Trump, a Republican, in the Nov. 8 vote.

The Michigan Supreme Court on Friday denied Stein’s last-ditch appeal to secure a recount there.

Even if all three recounts had taken place, it was considered highly unlikely that they would flip the overall result from Trump to Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton.

Stein had argued that Pennsylvania’s use of electronic voting machines with no paper trail in some districts left the system vulnerable to hacking.

In a 31-page opinion, U.S. District Judge Paul Diamond in Philadelphia said there was no evidence suggesting hacking had occurred. He also emphasized that the deadline to certify the state’s electoral votes is Tuesday, making it impossible to hold a recount in time.

Diamond said “suspicion of a ‘hacked’ Pennsylvania election borders on the irrational.”

Stein could appeal the court’s decision. Her campaign did not immediately comment.

While there is no evidence of large-scale voting machine hacking, U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia targeted Clinton in a series of cyberattacks on Democratic Party groups. Trump has questioned those reports.

U.S. presidential elections are determined not by the overall national popular vote but by the Electoral College, which awards votes based on the outcome in each state.

Trump, who won a projected 306 Electoral College votes to Clinton’s 232, is set to take office on Jan. 20. Clinton won the popular vote by more than 2.6 million ballots nationwide, according to the latest count.

Stein did not win any electoral college votes.

As of Monday morning, the Wisconsin recount was 95 percent complete and showed Trump with a increase of 628 votes, Clinton with an increase of 653 votes and Stein with an increase of 68 votes.

Trump won Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan by more than 27,000, 68,000 and 11,000 votes, respectively.

(Reporting by Joseph Ax in New York; Additional reporting by Timothy McLaughlin in Chicago; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Bill Trott)

IMAGE: Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein speaks during a news conference outside Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York City, U.S. December 5, 2016. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

How Russian Hacking Harmed The Clinton Campaign

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.

The Obama White House’s December surprise, a new intelligence agency probe into Russia’s hidden hand in influencing the presidential election, has already yielded two new revelations.

The Washington Post reported late Friday that a secret CIA assessment has already found  the Russians helped Trump. The New York Times reported Saturday that the Russians hacked into Republican National Committee computer systems, but did keep that data—unlike the release of damaging communications from the Democratic National Committee during the primaries and emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, John Podesta, during the general election.

Republicans, from the Trump transition team to the RNC, denied that that they were helped or hacked by the Russians, with Trump’s team, saying, “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction… It’s now time to move on.”

Significantly, the White House probe will not be conducted by the FBI, whose director, James Comey, announced in late October that the bureau was going to look at newly found emails from Clinton’s private accounts while she was Secretary of State—for classified materials—and then days before the election announced that there was nothing there. That “October surprise” broke Clinton’s slowly growing momentum after the three presidential debates.

“The FBI investigation was looking at specific acts that we saw over the summer and fall of this year,” White House Spokesman Eric Schultz said Friday. “So, as you know, they looked at the hacks at campaign committees like the DNC and other malicious cyber activity that we were detecting.  At the time, they determined that this is activity that could have only been directed from the highest levels of the Russian government.  So, yes, this [intelligence agency probe] is going to put that activity in a greater context. That’s going to look at the pattern of this happening from foreign actors, dating all the way back to 2008.”

Schultz reminded the White House press corps that in 2008, it was Chinese hacking attempts that targeted that year’s presidential campaigns. He said that Russia has a more recent history of trying to sabotage elections in surrounding counties, “and then, of course, in 2016, our intelligence community determined that there was malicious cyber activity intended to interfere with our elections. In the high confidence assessment that was released this past October, the intelligence community made very clear that this was activity directed by the highest levels of the Russian government.”

The WaPo report that grabbed headlines—that the CIA had already concluded that Russia was trying to help Trump—hardly seems like a surprise. While WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has repeatedly said that “no state parties” gave them Podesta’s stolen emails, the Times said intelligence circles had no doubt “Russians gave the Democrats’ documents to WikiLeaks.” What the Times report didn’t raise, but seems more significant in light of the depth of communications taken from Democrats, is what information do they have on the incoming Trump administration that could be used to Russia’s advantage?

While more disclosures are expected from the White House probe, they are likely to fall into the cyber-security fold, Schultz’s statements suggest, but not challenge Trump’s ascension to the presidency in January.

“This is not an effort to challenge the outcome of the election, that we have acknowledged who won the election,” he said. “It wasn’t the candidate that the President campaigned for.  And so the President has actually gone out of his way to make sure that we are providing for a seamless transition of power.  So we’re not calling into question the election results.  We are taking seriously our responsibility to protect the integrity of those elections.”

Schultz said federal agencies did not see a cyber attack on state election systems on Election Day, and considered that matter closed.

“What we determined in mid-November, a few weeks ago now, is that state election systems did not—the federal government did not detect any increased malicious cyber activity on Election Day or related to the administering of the elections,” he said. “So we’ve already made that determination, and that’s something we’ve announced publicly from here. But in terms of what this review will look at, this is going to be a review that’s conducted by the intelligence community.”

Computer scientists involved in the Green Party presidential recount would disagree with the White House spokesperson’s premise—saying hackers place malware in targets long before the attacks are carried out and can be pro-programmed on triggering events.

The White House said it wants its new probe done before Trump is sworn in as president. But the matter is not likely to go away.

Several members of Congress want to investigate Russian interference in the election. Reps. Eric Swalwell, D-CA and Elijah Cummings, D-MD, sponsored legislation to create a bipartisan, independent commission. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC, who previously called on Congress to investigate, also wants to head up a review.

Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America’s democracy and voting rights, campaigns and elections, and many social justice issues.

IMAGE: Flickr/DonkeyHotey

It Doesn’t Take A Foreign Government To Hack Our Flimsy Election System

Parallel narratives of deepening intrigue and outright denial unfolded Friday, as new revelations surfaced about Russian hacking to steer the presidential election while states showed they were afraid to look under hood to see what happened.

Out of the blue, President Obama’s national security adviser said the White House was ordering a new review of Russian hacking and interference in the 2016 election, saying there is more to be learned from that affair that benefited the GOP and Donald Trump. Later Friday, the Washington Post reported a secret CIA assessment said the Russians helped Trump—which he denied.

In stark contrast, in federal court in Philadelphia, lawyers for Green presidential candidate Jill Stein were challenging objections by top election officials for the right to examine Pennsylvania’s aged electronic voting systems for evidence of hacking as a part of their effort to recount its presidential vote. That bench is expected to rule against Stein as early as Monday. (Also on Friday, Michigan’s Supreme Court shut down that state’s unfinished presidential recount, while a federal court in Wisconsin rejected a GOP suit to stop that state’s recount.)

This dichotomy, of escalating claims that Russian hacking and electoral interference helped Trump win an Electoral College majority, and a systemic refusal by senior election officials and judges to verify the votes in 2016’s key battleground states, will soon disappear under the political tsunami surrounding the White House probe—Obama’s December surprise.

But before most of the media turns away from covering Stein’s presidential recounts, it should heed what a handful of election integrity activists—including top Silicon Valley programmers and computer security academics at leading universities—have found as they observed the recount in Wisconsin. In short, their discovery of a major hacking pathway into widely used ballot scanners is also a pathway that could have been used to access the Democratic Party and Clinton campaign’s communications.

“Whether from abroad or from a basement in Peoria, our machines are equally susceptible,” Stein said, in a statement Friday praising Obama for launching the Russian hacking probe, but also emphasizing there are many accessible targets to tilt the vote.

The White House Bombshell 

Lisa Monaco, Obama’s homeland security adviser, told reporters about the new probe early Friday, using carefully measured words that didn’t reveal what the WaPo reported later in the day, that the CIA had already secretly concluded that Russia helped Trump.

“The president has directed the intelligence community to conduct a full review of what happened during the 2016 election process and to capture lessons learned from that,” she told reporters. “We may have crossed into a new threshold, and it is incumbent upon us to take stock of that, to review, to conduct some after action, to understand what this means, what has happened, and to impart those lessons learned. And that’s what we’re going to go about doing.”

Monaco’s words didn’t add much to what’s been said for months. During the 2016 campaign, Washington intelligence officials blamed Russia for stealing emails from the Democratic National Committee and from Hillary Clinton’s campaign staff. In October, the officials said the hacks were directed by “Russia’s senior-most officials” in an unprecedented effort to interfere in the election.

Meanwhile, as Election Day passed and election integrity activists like Barbara Simons, a computer scientist and past president of the Association for Computing Machinery, among others, were looking for clues to explain Trump’s upset victories because they’d been following Russia’s purported hacks of U.S. voting infrastructure from the last summer.

Federal officials said a Florida contractor managing statewide voter registration databases in key battleground states including Florida and North Carolina had been hacked—with Russia as the top suspect—and later 200,000 voters’ information was taken from Illinois. The feds issued warnings to 20 states to protect their election systems, but local officials have said there was no cause for concern, seeking to quickly change the subject. The FBI said there was no threat because most voting machines are not online.

In the meantime, outside of official Washington, Stein’s recount started. In Wisconsin, the election integrity activists discovered a previously unknown but major hacking point of entry. They found cellular phone signal modems were installed in commonly used scanners that count ballots at precincts and electronically report those counts to county central tabulators. They said commercially available tools can easily intercept these cellular phone signals. It does not take much, they said, to repurpose these tools to alter data transmissions or insert malware that can implant itself into central tabulators and be poised to readjust vote counts.

This interception technology can capture cellphone communications, Mickey Duniho, a retired National Security Agency staffer told AlterNet. In addition to possibly tampering with the vote counts, he said it could also have been one way that the Democrats and Clinton campaign communications were breached. (If this seems too much like a spy novel, recall that New York City police were caught lying about using similar spyware.) FBI Director James Comey said America’s voting systems were too decentralized and unconnected to the internet, concluding they could not be hacked; but intercepting cellular modem signals is another path.

Recounts Thwarted, Just When Evidence Is Needed

Stein issued a statement Friday praising the White House investigation while also seeking to make the connection to the election integrity issues underlying her recount effort. It may seem like a radical series of steps to jump from observing aging vote-counting equipment that’s improperly functioning (incorrectly recording or counting ballots); to machinery that has been programmed to skip reading presidential votes (leaving missing votes for president, as in Michigan, which reported 75,000 such undervotes); to partisan agents programming paperless voting systems to readjust the totals as the count mounts (creating a pattern in which one candidate keeps winning on paper ballots (as Hillary Clinton did in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania) but keeps losing on paperless systems (as Trump did in these states). Or maybe that’s not radical, but a logical application of available technologies.

Stein’s campaign has been fighting in court—and mostly losing—for the right to conduct hand counts of all available paper ballots, which would reveal machine malfunctions or vote count tampering. She also wants to examine county electronic tabulators to see if any traces of hacking can be found, which has never been granted—and is very hard to do because voting machine manufacturers have privatized the tools used by this sector of government and consider their computer code as trade secrets. Ironically, as Stein’s effort faces increasingly steep odds, the White House announcement Friday of a new investigation validates her concerns.

“Today’s extraordinary announcement by the President should make clear that the threat of hacking in this election is creating serious concern at the highest levels of our government,” Stein said Friday. “We must also stress that concerns about the security and accuracy of our election system extend into the realm of human and machine error, where there is already evidence before our eyes of widespread machine failure. We must get rid of tamper- and error-prone electronic voting machines and work toward a verifiable paper ballot system, which has long been central to the Green Party’s democracy platform.”

“Despite overwhelming evidence and consensus from cyber-security and computer science experts that our election system is vulnerable to hacking, manipulation, malfunction and human error, the political establishment in Washington has dismissed the need for comprehensive recounts of the 2016 election,” she continued.

That’s true, even as several members of Congress have said they want to investigate Russia’s interference in the election. Reps. Eric Swalwell, D-CA and Elijah Cummings, D-MD, sponsored legislation to create a bipartisan, independent commission. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC, who previously called on Congress to investigate, said this week he would head up a review. But when it comes to looking at these issues in local elections, official Washington has turned away.

“They have criticized it for a ‘lack of evidence,’” Stein said, “giving no regard to the simple facts that optical scan machines and black box electronic machines used in our elections have been proven to be error-prone and easily hackable, and despite the fact that 20 state voter registration databases, the DNC and personal email accounts were hacked this year. For the purpose of the recount, it doesn’t matter where hacks originated.”

Stein said it doesn’t matter where the hackers are, “whether from abroad or from a basement in Peoria, our machines are equally susceptible.”

That last point is the most important—that whatever foreign agents can orchestrate can also be executed by locally committed partisans with the skill and motivation to win at all costs. That’s why the presidential recounts are needed to verify the vote count and expose the unreliable and vulnerable features of voting machinery. That’s why it is a travesty that clues found in observing the recount in states that don’t want to look under the hood could be critical links in the White House’s Russia electoral hacking probe.

The White House’s announcement that there is more to the Russian hacking story is a stunning reminder that cyber interference in elections is not just a nation-state affair. As the election integrity activists in Wisconsin discovered, the same software tools that can capture a presidential campaign’s e-mails also can be used to intercept vote counts and implant malware to readjust the results.

Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America’s democracy and voting rights, campaigns and elections, and many social justice issues.

IMAGE: An elections official demonstrates a touch-screen voting machine at the Fairfax County Governmental Center in Fairfax, Virginia, U.S. on October 3, 2012.  REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo

Experts Say Stopping Michigan Recount Is A Corrupt Exercise Of Power

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet. 

Michigan is the new Florida in American elections, an infamous state where Republican judges shut down a presidential recount before the votes were counted, leaving Americans with unanswered questions about Donald Trump’s closest margin of victory on election night, November 8. Thursday morning, no county election offices were continuing with the recount, even as Green presidential candidate Jill Stein’s campaign was taking its fight for the recount to Michigan’s Supreme Court.

Make no mistake, a travesty has occurred. On Wednesday in courtrooms and government boardrooms across the state, a series of legal dominos fell on Stein’s statewide presidential recount. In state legal venues, the linchpin was a three-member appeals court of Republican judges who ordered a state vote canvassing board to shut down the recount. That board then voted to reverse its earlier decision allowing the recount to start. Later Wednesday evening, a federal court judge lifted his prior restraining order preventing Michigan officials from calling off the recount. On Thursday, Michigan counties had suspended the recount. “It’s stopped,” said the receptionist answering the phone at the Wayne County Election Division in Detroit.

What follows are seven statements from election integrity activists and computer security experts who supported the recount.

1. John Bonifaz, co-founder and president, Free Speech For People: 
”It is an outrage that the voters of Michigan are being denied their right to have their votes properly counted. Because of a partisan state appeals court decision, Americans will never know the truth about what happened in this election. But the fight for our democracy must go on, now more than ever. History will record that, at this critical moment, people across the country stood up to demand that we verify the vote.”

2. Douglas W. Jones, associate professor of computer science, University of Iowa: “In a healthy democracy, elections are run with sufficient transparency that partisans of the losing candidate can convince themselves that they lost fair and square. Recounts in close elections are a necessary part of this transparency, particularly when the margin of victory is exceeded by an unusual number of ballots that were cast without reporting any vote in the election. Trump’s fight to stop the recount only serves to fuel speculation that he has something to hide.”

3. Mark Halverson, founder and former director, Citizens of Election Integrity Minnesota: “On the basis of our research into state recount laws, I take issue with the court’s assertion that no court has ever endorsed the use of a recount for purposes of determining whether or not voting machines functioned properly and counted votes accurately. For example, Tennessee recount statutes allow ‘any court, primary board, legislative body, or tribunal’ with jurisdiction over election contests to initiate a recount of ballots under circumstances including an indication of fraud, or the malfunction of a voting machine, whether the malfunction would be in a sufficient amount to alter the election outcome or for ‘any other instance’ in which such a body ‘finds that a recount is warranted.’ California and Delaware have similar provisions.”

4. Barbara Simons, board of advisers, U.S. Election Assistance Commission: The co-author of Broken Ballots: Will Your Vote Count? says, “Michigan citizens are fortunate to have a sound method for casting their votes: they mark paper ballots which are then counted by computers inside of scanning machines. However, computers can have software bugs, programming errors, or election-rigging malware. Fortunately, we can determine if there are any problems with the scanners by comparing what the paper ballots say to what the scanner thinks they say. But if we don’t look at the paper, then we can’t know if the scanners are correct. We have a choice. We can honor our democracy by routinely checking computer-declared results after every election. Or we can accept computer-declared results on faith, even though they may be wrong. Our democracy will fail if we continue to allow unreliable computers to decide our elections on our behalf.”

5. Phillip B. Stark, associate dean of mathematical and physical sciences and professor of statistics, UC Berkeley: “This decision halts the collection of priceless evidence about how well the infrastructure of our democracy works. Counting the votes accurately and checking the count carefully should not be a partisan issue. We should check election results against cast paper ballots in every election. There are more efficient ways to do that than full recounts: we need laws that require non-partisan, risk-limiting audits to catch and correct errors. But first, we need all voters to use paper ballots, and we need all jurisdictions to protect those ballots.”

6. Poorvi Vora, professor of computer science, George Washington University: “Statistician Philip Stark and computer scientist David Wagner of Berkeley have defined ‘evidence-based elections’ as those where voters and observers are provided evidence in support of the election outcome. The recount was to have provided evidence for or against a very unusual number in the Michigan election this year: 75,000 voters—a number seven times the margin in the race—voted in the election but did not vote on president. However, in the early days of the recount, there have been reports of other, more troubling facts from this election: mismatches between voter turnout and ballots, scanners jamming, insecure storage of ballot boxes. This is not the time to stop the recount. This is the time to press on with it to obtain more evidence and understand more completely the election process in Michigan.”

7. Dan Wallach, professor in Rice University’s Department of Computer Science and manager of Rice Computer Security Lab: “I’m disappointed that Michigan isn’t seeing its recount through. We have legitimate concerns about foreign nation-states trying to manipulate our elections, and Michigan offered an important opportunity to either prove or disprove these concerns. The discrepancies in Detroit (broken seals, mismatching counts) already point to flaws in Michigan’s election processes that need to be improved, and even a recount that failed to change the outcome would be able to provide a definitive count of how many Michigan votes were handled so poorly that they cannot be properly recounted.”

Recount Continues in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin

The Stein campaign also filed for recounts in Wisconsin, which started last week, and in Pennsylvania, which has gotten off to a rough start and where it has sued the state in federal court over what it says are unconstitutional obstructions to the process.

Pennsylvania’s election system allows for a state-run recount if the margin of victory is less than 0.5 percent, which is slightly below Donald Trump’s latest lead over Hillary Clinton. That has prompted the Stein campaign to try to file for citizen-initiated recounts, where any three voters from one precinct can submit notarized petitions. As of midweek, 1,300 voters filed petitions, but many jurisdictions either refused to take them or haven’t acted on them. Republicans have also filed legal challenges, tying up recounts in courts, where more often than not local judges have rejected the recount.

When the Stein campaign filed a legal petition seeking a statewide recount with 100 signatures on it, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court demanded that they pay $1 million to be able to move forward with their case, which prompted the Stein campaign to sue the state in federal court. The case will be heard Friday. In Wisconsin, where the recount is nearing completion, the state inexplicably more than tripled its estimated $1.1 million filing fee to $3.5 million, which Stein’s campaign paid.

But the most dubious opposition to recounting the ballots was in Michigan, where the state election department told counties they could disqualify local precincts from a recount if there is discrepancy between the number of voters in a precinct’s poll book and the number of ballots in the ballot box. That standard meant 392 of 662 precincts in heavily Democratic Detroit—or 59 percent—of the precincts were deemed ineligible for a recount.

In interviews with the Detroit Free Press, nationally known election scholars criticized that disqualifying standard. Larry Norden, Democracy Program deputy director at the Brennan Center at NYU Law School, said, “It seems like to have such a strict rule is a bad idea because it potentially incentivizes someone who doesn’t want a recount.” The Free Press added, “Norden said a rogue poll worker could simply add one name to the poll book at the end of the evening to ensure the precinct couldn’t be recounted.”

Ed Foley, an election law expert at Moritz Law School in Ohio also said Michigan’s disqualifying standard was out of step with other states. “In most states, if it’s [precinct ballot totals and poll book sign-ins] only off by one or two, it’s usually poll worker error and absent any other evidence of fraud or impropriety, they’ll treat the ballots as valid. The thinking is that those mistakes even out. Michigan is sort of out of step with that prevailing practice.”

But like Wisconsin, where state actors changed the rules in the middle of the recount process, Michigan Republicans have not stopped going after the Greens. In their GOP-controlled legislature, the House Elections Committee has passed and sent to the floor a bill retroactively requiring the Stein campaign to pay more for the recount.

Not What Democracy Looks Like

Voting in the presidential election didn’t start on November 8. It began weeks before, where civil rights attorneys in many states were in court to prevent partisan election officials, almost all Republicans, from creating barriers to the vote such as closing early voting sites in communities of color and toughening voter ID laws to get a ballot. And the presidential election didn’t end after Election Day, when states took weeks to officially certify their counts and a call came to verify the vote count in the states that purportedly elected Trump.

Americans need to know who elected Trump and why, instead of seeing a morass of vote count obstructionism that’s as alarming as the October surprise delivered by a partisan FBI, which targeted Hillary Clinton in the final weeks of the campaign. While the Clinton campaign refused to demand accountability on behalf of its voters, Stein’s campaign surprisingly took on the job. What did her 100,000-plus small donors get for their millions? They have placed new election integrity issues before the nation. They showed it is not just partisan voter suppression before and on Election Day, but a rickety ballot and vote counting machinery manned by too many officials who don’t want to account for votes, compounded by partisan courts pre-empting the vote count, that sit at the center of the electoral process. Perhaps American elections have always been this way, but many voters do not think that’s the way a democracy is supposed to function.

Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America’s democracy and voting rights, campaigns and elections, and many social justice issues.

IMAGE: A sign points the way to the room where Oakland County clerks count election ballots during a recount of presidential ballots in Waterford Township, Michigan, U.S., December 5, 2016. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

Federal Judge Halts Michigan Recount

(Reuters) – A federal judge in Michigan on Wednesday revoked his order requiring a recount of the state’s presidential vote sought by Jill Stein, siding with a state appeals court that found the Green Party candidate had no grounds to mount the challenge.

U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith’s ruling has the effect of halting the recount in Michigan, at least for now, following conflicting rulings a day earlier by federal and state appeals courts.

The Michigan Court of Appeals on Tuesday ordered the recount stopped, while the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Goldsmith’s earlier decision and said the process should proceed. The dueling rulings had both sides claiming victory but left the future of Stein’s bid unclear.

Goldsmith, in deferring to the Michigan appeals court, said Stein had not presented valid reasons for him to override that court’s decision, which found that she was not an “aggrieved” candidate with standing to demand a recount.

The Stein campaign said in a statement following Goldsmith’s ruling that it had appealed again, to the Michigan Supreme Court, and sought to disqualify two justices there because they had been mentioned by Republican President-elect Donald Trump as potential nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“In a huge victory for Michigan taxpayers and the rule of law, this recount is stopped,” Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, a Republican who opposes the recount, said in a statement.

In addition to Michigan, Stein is trying to have the votes from the Nov. 8 presidential election recounted in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. All three states were key to Trump’s victory.

The recounts are extremely unlikely to change the outcome of the election. But Stein, who got only about 1 percent of the vote, has said that they are necessary to ensure the integrity of voting systems.

Losing Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign has said it will take part in the recounts.

Stein sued in federal court in Pennsylvania on Monday to try to force a statewide recount of presidential votes there.

In a setback for Stein’s team, the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas on Wednesday denied a full forensic analysis of the city’s voting machines and their software. Stein’s team had argued that such an analysis was the only way to guarantee the accuracy of the city’s election results.

“The court’s decision will deny voters the chance to know the truth about this election,” Ilann Maazel, lead counsel for Stein’s campaign recount effort in Pennsylvania, said in a written statement.

(Reporting by Gina Cherelus and Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

IMAGE: Kent Mesplay and Jill Stein speaking at the Green Party Presidential Candidate Town Hall hosted by the Green Party of Arizona at the Mesa Public Library in Mesa, Arizona. Flickr/Gage Skidmore