Wisconsin recount goes ahead, judge mulls Pennsylvania case

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Posted: Dec 09, 2016 6:58 PM
Wisconsin recount goes ahead, judge mulls Pennsylvania case

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A federal judge allowed Wisconsin's presidential recount to move forward Friday as a another federal judge in Pennsylvania planned to take the weekend to decide on a Green Party-backed request to recount paper ballots and examine election computer systems for signs of hacking.

U.S. District Judge Paul S. Diamond in Philadelphia said he will rule Monday on the recount bid by Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein in Pennsylvania, where Republican Donald Trump won, beating Democrat Hillary Clinton by about 44,000 votes.

Stein, who finished far behind Trump and Clinton, is seeking a recount of potentially more than 1 million paper ballots and a forensic examination of election system software in six large counties, including Philadelphia, that use paperless electronic voting machines.

Stein's lawyers argue it's possible computer hacking occurred in a plot to change the outcome of the election and Pennsylvania's heavy use of paperless machines make it a prime target. Stein also contends Pennsylvania has erected unconstitutional barriers to voters seeking a recount.

"The average voter in Pennsylvania has had to go through incredible lengths in order to have the assurance that their vote is being counted and being counted accurately," Stein said after the hearing.

Still, opponents, including Trump and the state attorney general's office, counter that no such evidence of hacking has been presented and that Stein has no standing to seek a recount because she can't win the election.

Carnegie Mellon University computer science professor Michael Shamos, who tests voting machines, testified for the Pennsylvania Department of State that the chance of hacking was about as likely as "androids from outer space living among us."

However, Diamond asked for estimates on how long a partial recount of about 20,000 paper ballots in perhaps a dozen counties and an examination of the hard drives from a sampling of paperless electronic voting machines might take. A hand recount of the paper ballots in each of the counties could happen over one long day, while examining hard drives might take two days, University of Michigan computer scientist Alex Halderman testified.

Still, Diamond raised concerns about the possibility of disenfranchising all 6 million Pennsylvania voters if the election isn't certified by Tuesday's deadline. He scolded Green Party lawyers for their timing: "You sat on your rights for three weeks now ... and now (have caused) a judicial fire drill."

The federal lawsuit is part of a broader effort by Stein to recount votes in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, states with a history of voting for Democrats for president and where Trump narrowly beat Clinton. Stein received about 1 percent or less in each of those states while victory in the states was crucial to Trump's capturing the White House.

In Madison, Wisconsin, U.S. District Judge James Peterson refused to halt Wisconsin's presidential recount, which began Dec. 1. He told Trump's supporters the effort probably won't change anything anyway. Trump defeated Clinton by more than 22,000 votes in the state.

Wisconsin election officials reported Friday nearly 89 percent of the ballots cast for president had been counted. Clinton had gained just 49 votes.

Two pro-Trump groups, the Great America PAC and the Stop Hillary PAC, sued to stop the process. Their attorney said he would consult with them on whether to appeal.

Peterson said Friday the Wisconsin recount has revealed no irregularities.

The Michigan Supreme Court on Friday turned down an appeal by Stein to restart a vote recount in the state. Earlier in the day, two judges who made Trump's list of possible U.S. Supreme Court nominees removed themselves from the case.

The denial came two days after a federal judge ended the recount, which began Monday. The judge tied his decision to a state court ruling that found Stein had no legal standing to request the recount.

Stein's recount case had only a remote chance to succeed before Michigan's high court: Three of the five justices were nominated by Republicans.

Meanwhile, in Nevada, the secretary of state declared a recount finished Thursday. The recount of ballots from five counties turned up 15 erroneous votes between Clinton and Trump and no change in the election results.

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Associated Press writers Roger Schneider and Jeff Karoub contributed from Detroit.