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Jill Stein’s call for a recount of the US election result is a public service – but is it possible?

Hacking claims and slim margins are spurring people on to fund the Green Party nominee’s campaign for a recount in some states.

By Terrell Starr

Jill Stein didn’t stand even a remote shot at winning the White House, but her efforts to secure recounts in swing states that went to Donald Trump will likely be her greatest political moment – even if those efforts end up failing.

Stein has launched a campaign to raise more than $2m to fund voter recounts in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania; as of today, more than $4.5m has been raised, which is more than the $3,509,477 contributors gave to Stein’s 2016 campaign; the goal has now been raised to $7.

Hillary Clinton hasn’t released an official statement on the recount push.

Citing concerns of alleged cyber hacks, Stein, the former Green Party presidential nominee, and a group of scientists from the University of Michigan, led by Professor of Computer Scienc J. Alex Halderman, are calling for an audit of voting results in the three aforementioned states. Although Halderman admits that it’s unlikely hacking took place, he argues in a Medium post that there are too few checks and balances to stop manipulating voting machines being a real possibility.

What is also fuelling Stein’s drive are admissions by top US security officials that Russian cyberhackers broke into the Democratic National Committee and Florida state servers this summer.

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That said, is a recount possible? Yes, but very unlikely.

The deadline to file for a recount in Wisconsin is Friday 25 November. Pennsylvania’s is the following Monday and Michigan’s is Wednesday. Stein’s efforts have also been met with suspicion and outright doubts that the election manipulated.

In order to make a compelling argument that the very time-consuming task of recounting votes is worth it, Stein and her supporters would have to present some pretty convincing evidence of wrongdoing. So far, none of her supporters have produced such evidence.

Michigan’s director of elections says the state doesn’t use electronic voting machines, making a hack pretty much impossible. Even Halderman, the top cyberhacking expert, says the election was likely not the victim of a cyberattack.

“Probably not,” Halderman writes. “I believe the most likely explanation is that the polls were systematically wrong, rather than that the election was hacked.”

A recount, he argues, is the only surest way to know.

The main problem with Halderman’s argument, though, is that Clinton, who actually had a shot at beating Trump, doesn’t seem interested. Her margins of defeat in the swing states in question were pretty close, so states would likely grant a recount if she asked. But she hasn’t, and that doesn’t bode well for Stein and her supporters.

During Clinton’s concession speech after it was clear that Trump won, she told her supporters to accept Trump as “our president”.

Another problem with Stein’s recount efforts is her public image in American mainstream media. Fair or unfair, she really is not well-respected outside of her liberal Green Party circles. Billed by her detractors as the “spoiler” candidate, views on Stein’s political outlook have ranged from “weird” to outright “nutty”.

And while she appeared on several televised townhalls, Stein never debated on the main stage because our debate commission rules require candidates to prove they have a shot at winning an electoral college vote or have at least 15 per cent support in national polling; she never came close to that number.

None of this matters when asking if Stein’s calls for a recount are legitimate. Because they are. Her efforts have forced Americans to question if election officials are taking every step possible to ensure that the first tally of votes were counted properly and accurately in the first place. As Vox recently reported, America’s recount laws are outdated. And we do need to gain a better understanding of how votes are counted and double-checked for accuracy.

If a bank teller asks us to count our money before we leave the booth, why shouldn’t we do the same for counting votes in states where the margin of victory was so slim for Trump? And Halderman does make a good point that because hackers are so sophisticated, signs of hacking may not be immediately obvious.

Many of us in the American press who have been covering this election know very little about the nuances of individual states’ recount laws and the voter count process, no matter how much a few of us claim to.

Some of Stein’s critics are saying that she is pushing this recount drive for her own personal gain. I can’t read her brain, so I won’t make such a judgement. But, what is clearly apparent is that Stein’s insistence that each vote was properly counted can’t do anything but bolster confidence in the American election process. And if that means some her critics are forced to see her face more than they wish, so be it.

Our democracy will become stronger each day she demands an audit of the system citizens depend on to elect men and women to the most important posts in American government.

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