Trump allies fight election recount 'mayhem' across Rust Belt

Michigan attorney general sues as campaign groups fight Wisconsin recount and Trump attorneys say Pennsylvania electors won’t be able to meet voting deadline

Efforts to have the presidential election vote reviewed in states where Donald Trump narrowly defeated Hillary Clinton came under attack on Friday, as Trump allies asked courts to stop recounts in three states.

Legal submissions were made to authorities in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin by Republicans who argued that recounts requested by Jill Stein, the Green party candidate, should not be allowed.

Michigan’s attorney general, Bill Schuette, said in a lawsuit that Stein’s “dilatory and frivolous” recount would cost the public millions of dollars, and could result in the state being unable to cast its votes in the electoral college.

In Pennsylvania, attorneys for Trump accused Stein of “bringing mayhem” to the election process despite “being no more than a blip on the electoral radar” and having no evidence that the vote had been sabotaged by foreign hackers.

Two pro-Trump campaign groups meanwhile asked a federal court in Madison, Wisconsin, to bring a halt to an ongoing recount in the state, which was prompted by a petition from Stein that was accepted by election authorities last week.

Stein defended her push for recounts and pledged to not back down. “In an election already tainted by suspicion, some coming from Donald Trump himself, verifying the vote is a commonsense procedure that would put all concerns around voter disenfranchisement to rest,” she said in a statement.

The Green party candidate requested recounts in the three states on behalf of a coalition of election security experts, who were concerned that the electoral process could have been disrupted by foreign hackers.

They acted following warnings from US intelligence agencies during the election campaign that Russian hackers were behind the thefts of emails from Democratic party officials and had been detected intruding into the voter registration systems of several American states.

Opponents to Stein’s efforts on Friday all pointed to the absence of any clear evidence that the vote had been skewed by external forces. Trump won slim victories over Clinton in all three states after Clinton had led in opinion polls for several months.

According to the latest tallies compiled by state authorities, Trump won Michigan by 10,704 votes (0.2%), Pennsylvania by 46,765 (0.8%) and Wisconsin by 22,177 (0.7%).

Stein and her allies have suggested that hackers may have downloaded state voter registration databases and filed bogus absentee ballots, or tampered in some way with the electronic machines that register votes. But they have not offered proof pointing to either theory.

The Obama administration has said it is confident that no cyber-hacking interfered with election day and that the result was “the will of the American people”. A group of Democratic senators has, however, asked the president to declassify more information about Russia’s involvement in the US election process.

The Republican efforts to derail Stein’s recounts raised a wide range of objections on Friday. Schuette, the Michigan attorney general, homed in on Michigan law holding that a candidate must show that she or he was “aggrieved” by the result in order to prompt a recount.

“Stein has zero chance of winning Michigan’s electoral votes; she cited no evidence of fraud or mistake in the canvass of votes; and she has offered no argument as to how she is aggrieved by the electoral counts,” Schuette, a Republican who supported Trump’s campaign for the presidency, said in a lawsuit to a state appeals court.

Stein said in a statement that Schuette’s lawsuit was a “politically motivated” attempt to prevent checks on the integrity of the vote count in the state. Trump’s campaign itself filed a petition in Michigan on Thursday in opposition to the recount.

In Pennsylvania, attorneys for Trump and the state Republican party argued in a court filing that Stein’s efforts placed the state “at grave risk” of not being able to meet a 13 December deadline for settling disagreements before submitting results for the electoral college vote.

Stein’s request, according to the lawsuit, “has not alleged any specific acts of fraud or tampering in Pennsylvania, much less that any such fraud increased the votes of President-elect Trump, let alone to such degree that it affected the outcome of the election.”

The Republicans also used Stein’s own filings against her. Stein asked the state court to put her petition contesting the election on hold pending the discovery by recounters of hacking. But state law bars such a “fishing expedition”, the Republicans said.

In Wisconsin, the Great America Pac and Stop Hillary Pac cited the US supreme court’s order to abandon recounts in Florida after the 2000 presidential election to argue that Wisconsin’s present recount violated the equal protection clause of the US constitution.

They also said the recount could not be “accurately and carefully” completed before the 13 December deadline for Wisconsin to settle disagreements before presenting its vote for the electoral college. The campaign groups asked the court to stop the recount “to prevent careless mistakes” that would taint the election’s results and “cast a pall” over Trump’s victory.

Michigan authorities were meeting on Friday morning to discuss Stein’s request and opposition from Trump and the state attorney general. Recounting, which was due to begin on Friday, has been placed on hold by the Michigan secretary of state.


Jon Swaine

The GuardianTramp

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