Jill Stein's Recount By Hand Lawsuit Isn't Demanding. It's Necessary

Temporary election staff open and inspect mail-in ballots before scanning them at the King County County Department of Elections in Renton, Washington on November 2, 2016. Washington, Oregon and Colorado are three states that conduct all elections by mail and there are no traditional polling places. / AFP / Jason Redmond (Photo credit should read JASON REDMOND/AFP/Getty Images)
Source: JASON REDMOND/AFP/Getty Images

The recount in Wisconsin initiated by Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein last week has very little chance of changing the outcome of the election. But it’s going forward nevertheless, and if it's going to happen, I believe it should be done right. So when the state's Board of Elections voted to allow the recount to go ahead without requiring Wisconsin officials to perform a hand recount of paper ballots, Stein sued — and I believe rightly so. Doing the recount without counting the paper ballots is like checking to see if your door is locked just by looking at the keyhole.

Stein’s recount efforts in Wisconsin — and similar efforts underway in Pennsylvania and potentially Michigan — have been divisive. President-elect Donald Trump stomped all over Twitter this past weekend hurling baseless claims about voter fraud, though whether he was incensed by Stein’s recount or the fact that he’s losing the popular vote by more than 2.3 million votes, according to the latest from the Cook Political Report, is anyone’s guess.

But even among the left, Stein’s moves have been met with varying degrees of enthusiasm. While she’s definitely tapped a vein of anger among Americans who are upset at the outcome of the election, raising over $6.4 million, according to her website, others are pushing to accept the election results and move ahead. Hillary Clinton said as much during her concession speech on Nov. 9, and her campaign has said little about the recount, other than it will participate in the process.

But for all the politicking going on around the recount, the process is going ahead, and that being the case, we should do the recount correctly. University of Michigan Computer Science Professor J. Alex Halderman argued that despite the slim likelihood that any voter machine shenanigans went on, checking isn’t only a good idea, it’s the responsible thing to do. In a Medium post, Halderman wrote:

Were this year’s deviations from pre-election polls the results of a cyberattack? Probably not. I believe the most likely explanation is that the polls were systematically wrong, rather than that the election was hacked. But I don’t believe that either one of these seemingly unlikely explanations is overwhelmingly more likely than the other.


And, as Halderman adds, “most election security experts are with me on this: paper ballots are the best available technology for casting votes.” Performing a recount without examining the paper ballots doesn’t address problems that recounts are meant to address. As voting rights attorney John Bonifaz pointed out to Newsweek, “In Minnesota in 2008, Sen. Al Franken won entirely on a recount of paper ballots. The machine count had declared Norm Coleman a winner, but the hand counting showed Franken was the actual winner.”

So if we’re going to do this (and we’re doing this) let’s do it right: let’s count the paper ballots. Anything less is the real waste of time and money.

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