Is A Vote Recount Done By Hand Or Electronically? Jill Stein's Decision To Sue Is Based On This Question

Jill Stein has moved what seemed to be mountains when she first started her push to recount the votes in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin last week. Against all odds, she successfully petitioned for a recount in Wisconsin on Friday, after the money to pay for the process came flying in through her online fundraiser. It all appeared to be going well until there was a hitch on Nov. 28 — the state elections commission wasn't going to do the recount the same way as Stein requested. So you may have seen headlines that leave you wondering: Is a recount done by hand or electronically?

That would depend on the state board of elections in the state carrying out the recount. In Wisconsin, Stein had requested a hand recount, and herein lies the problem according to Stein: the state board of elections left it up to the local precincts to decide how to do the recount. That means they can count ballots by hand our use optical scanners — which are the electronic devices that would have been manipulated if there was a hacking of the vote.

The Chicago Tribune reported that University of Michigan computer scientist J. Alex Halderman wrote an affidavit with Stein's request that explained how a hand recount was the only way to be completely, utterly sure that there was no electronic interference in the vote count. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that most Wisconsin ballots are counted by optical ballot readers, and only a small percentage are cast on touch screen machines. So reusing the optical scanners would potentially recreate the same problem.

That led Stein to sue to get a hand recount. She filed a lawsuit in Dane County Circuit Court on Monday. The decision will need to come quickly as the recount is set to begin on Dec. 1. Currently, about 30 of Wisconsin's 72 counties have told the state's election commission that they plan on counting their ballots by hand. One argument against a recount by hand is the time frame: the last one in Wisconsin took more than a month and the presidential election should be official before Dec. 13. But Stein argues it shouldn't take any longer.

As for the recounts in Pennsylvania and Michigan, it's too early to say. At this point, Stein has filed a legal petition in Pennsylvania on behalf of 100 voters, The Washington Post reported, "to protect their right to substantively contest the election in Pennsylvania beyond the recounts being filed by voters at the precinct level.” In Michigan the initial vote count was certified Monday and the Stein is expected to file there Wednesday.

So as you watch the recounts, pay attention to the way they're being conducted, too. Stein thinks it matters, and if you support her recounts, so should you.