US election: Wisconsin set for vote recount

Dr Jill Stein has raised about $7 million so far for the recount effort. There are also petitions from individuals, including prominent academics, to get the Electoral College to change its vote in favour of Mrs Hillary Clinton, based on her lead of
Dr Jill Stein has raised about $7 million so far for the recount effort. There are also petitions from individuals, including prominent academics, to get the Electoral College to change its vote in favour of Mrs Hillary Clinton, based on her lead of over two million in the popular vote. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Green Party candidate Jill Stein files bid and plans to do the same in Michigan, Pennsylvania

Green Party candidate Jill Stein, an also-ran in the United States presidential election, has filed for a recount in the state of Wisconsin, and plans to do so in two other states - Michigan and Pennsylvania.

There  are also petitions, including several from prominent academics, to get the Electoral College to change its vote in favour of Mrs Hillary Clinton, based on her lead of more than two million in the popular vote. These developments have raised the possibility - albeit an extremely slender one - that the election of Mr Donald Trump as US president is not quite cast in stone.

"Election integrity experts have independently identified Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin as states where 'statistical anomalies' raised concerns," Dr Stein, 66, said in a post on her blog on Friday.

 In the closest presidential election in Wisconsin's history, Mr Trump beat Mrs Clinton, the Democratic candidate, by 10,704 votes - or 0.7 per cent of the popular vote.  The Republican won Michigan by just 0.3 per cent, and Pennsylvania by 1.2 per cent. The deadline to file for a recount in Pennsylvania is tomorrow, and in Michigan, it is Wednesday.

 States tend to be reluctant to conduct a recount as it is cumbersome and costly, which is why Dr Stein is trying to raise money for the recounts through crowdfunding. She has raised about US$5 million (S$7 million) so far.

SOME CONCERNS

Election integrity experts have independently identified Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin as states where 'statistical anomalies' raised concerns.

GREEN PARTY CANDIDATE JILL STEIN, 66, on why she wants a recount in these states.

To add to the problem, each state has slightly different rules; some have only paper ballots, others use electronic machines.

 Each state is allocated electoral votes based on the total number of representatives it has in the House of Representatives and the Senate.

For example, Florida has 27 representatives and two senators, and so, it gets 29 electoral votes.  There are 538 electoral votes in all, with 270 needed to win the presidency. Mr Trump has a projected 290 electoral votes to Mrs Clinton's 232.

 Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania together count for 46 electoral votes. For Mrs Clinton to win, the recount would have to show she won all three states. This is unlikely, analysts said. It is the least likely in Pennsylvania - Mr Trump won there by over 70,000 votes.

Wisconsin officials will be working day and night to finish the recount by Dec 13. If this puts Mrs Clinton ahead, Mr Trump can still challenge the new result in court.

 There is a parallel effort to persuade electoral voters - essentially loyal party men and women - to switch their vote from Mr Trump on Dec 19, on account of his being behind in the popular vote.

 The penalties for switching one's vote are not severe; they normally involve fines. But becoming such a "faithless elector" is rare and has never altered the outcome of an election. Five times in US history, a president has won the Electoral College while losing the popular vote.

 Electors would have to switch in considerable numbers for Mrs Clinton to win. And unless the recounts dramatically swing the balance away from Mr Trump, the pressure on the Electoral College is unlikely to change the outcome. In any case, both Mrs Clinton and President Barack Obama have conceded and the transition is well under way. 

 Still, a mass defection could shake the system. "I do think that a by-product would be a serious look into Electoral College reform,'' Mr Micheal Baca, a Democratic elector from Colorado, told the Politico political news website.

On Saturday in the US, the Trump transition team in a statement called the Green Party's request for recounts ''ridiculous.''

"The people have spoken and the election is over, and as Hillary Clinton herself said on election night, in addition to her conceding by congratulating me, 'We must accept this result and then look to the future','' the statement said. 
 
"It is important to point out that with the help of millions of voters across the country, we won 306 electoral votes on Election Day - the most of any Republican since 1988 – and we carried nine of 13 battleground states, 30 of 50 states, and more than 2,600 counties nationwide - the most since President Ronald Reagan in 1984.'

"This recount is just a way for Jill Stein, who received less than 1 per cent of the vote overall and wasn’t even on the ballot in many states, to fill her coffers with money, most of which she will never even spend on this ridiculous recount. All three states were won by large numbers of voters, especially Pennsylvania, which was won by more than 70,000 votes.

"This is a scam by the Green Party for an election that has already been conceded, and the results of this election should be respected instead of being challenged and abused, which is exactly what Jill Stein is doing."

SEE WORLD

WATCH IT ONLINE

The US Green Party calls for a recount in three states. http://str.sg/4Qwt

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 27, 2016, with the headline 'US election: Wisconsin set for vote recount'. Print Edition | Subscribe