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Jill Stein's Recounts: Could They Change the Election’s Outcome?

by Countable | 11.30.16

On Friday, Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein requested a recount in Wisconsin in order to verify that Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton did indeed lose to Republican and President-Elect Donald Trump. Stein has planned to follow that up by requesting recounts in Michigan and Pennsylvania, though the latter would begin as only a partial recount at the local level.

The Clinton campaign announced later that it would join in the effort "to ensure the process proceeds in a manner that is fair to all sides" despite their awareness that the margin of about 10,000 votes that separates Clinton and Trump in the closest state “well exceeds the largest margin ever overcome in a recount.” Trump blasted the recount effort on Twitter as a “Green Party scam to fill up their coffers by asking for impossible recounts,” saying that “nothing will change” despite the time and money that will be expended.

Are the recounts underway?

Wisconsin will begin its recount this week with a completion date set for December 13, though a judge rejected Stein’s request for a hand count. Michigan’s deadline for filing for a recount is today and the Stein campaign intends to file such a request, while precinct level recounts in Pennsylvania can begin while courts consider Stein’s statewide request.

The recounts will need to completed quickly though, because federal law requires all states to complete recounts within 35 days of Election Day (December 13) in order to allow Electoral College voters to accurately cast their votes when they meet on December 19.

What are Stein and Clinton hoping for?

Both have said that they don't expect it to happen, but their ultimate hope would be to find that enough votes had been miscounted to change the outcome in the contested states, as Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin that control enough votes in the Electoral College to flip the election to Clinton.

Beyond that, the recount is mainly just about ensuring that every legitimate vote gets its due and building confidence in the nation's election system. There had been concerns about widespread, undetected voter election fraud if an outside actor hacked voting machines and it went unnoticed. While the Stein and Clinton campaigns plus the White House have all agreed that there is no evidence that any cyber-tampering occurred, if fraud is found during recounts at the precinct level in Pennsylvania it could provide evidence that leads to a statewide recount there.

Also, while it’s very much a consolation prize, Clinton could see her lead in the nationwide popular vote grow from the more 2 million it’s at currently.

Is there a chance the outcome could change?

It’s not beyond the realm of possibility that the recount could ultimately lead to a change in the election’s outcome, but it is very, very unlikely because Clinton has a lot of ground to make up to overtake her Republican rival. Trump won Michigan by 10,704 votes, Pennsylvania by 70,638 votes, and Wisconsin by 27,257 votes.

Those margins are the biggest obstacle to those hoping for a change in the election result, because recounts historically haven’t changed the vote differential much. FiveThirtyEight analyzed 27 statewide recounts that occurred between 2000 and 2015, finding that the average change in the margin separating the top two candidates was only 282 votes. The largest swing occurred in the infamous Florida recount from the 2000 presidential election, but even then Al Gore only gained 1,247 votes on George W. Bush. Those facts underscore how unlikely it is that the recounts will change the outcome of the election.

Who pays for the recounts?

States generally only pay for recounts when the result of an election is close enough to automatically trigger a recount based on the state’s laws. Given that none of the states Stein intends to request recounts in were close enough to trigger an automatic recount, the responsibility for financing a recount falls to the candidate that requests it.

That could prove costly, and the Clinton campaign is only paying for lawyers to oversee the process, so Stein has been fundraising to finance the actual recounts. At first, her campaign sought $2.5 million but then raised their goal to $7 million, of which donors have provided $6.5 million so far. Stein’s recount fundraising prowess is a bit ironic, as her presidential campaign raised only $3.5 million.

— Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: Paul Stein / Creative Commons)

Countable

Written by Countable

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(64)
  • dhbrotman
    11/30/2016
    ···

    It's unlikely to make a difference in the outcome but that's because the real shenanigans wasn't vote hacking or miscounting. Rather, it was voter suppression efforts in key states targeted at minorities coupled with fake news and a flawed electoral college system. The recount is fine and I support it because it will help expose the lie Trump has been telling about inner cities cooking the books, but it won't address the real issue.

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  • Al
    11/30/2016
    ···

    I would like to see the whole system verified. I think Americans need to be confident in our voting systems and nothing is wrong with verification with all parties present.

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  • Jacqueline
    11/30/2016
    ···

    Why are people so opposed to verify the process? If there is no fraud...then we will know it is all on the level and feel better about the outcome. If there is no fraud it will prove trump legitimately won.....if there is fraud...wouldn't you want to know that? Things have become so corrupt....so much has been hacked...the fact that someone could beat another candidate by 2.3 million votes and lose is extremely odd. The fact that voters in rural areas who haven't voted in 25 years decided to vote is odd. Stein raised the money...lets find out....what are you so afraid of that we have to spew nasty hate about it?

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  • Fitzswederue
    11/30/2016
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    Your precious taxpayer money didn't pay for this - Jill Stein crowdfunded the fees necessary for filing for a recount. $2.5 million was needed, and people donated at least $5 million to the cause. If any taxpayer money is used during recount efforts, that's part of what taxes should pay for anyway: ensuring our voting system isn't fraudulent.

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  • Suzi
    11/30/2016
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    I still think voter ID needs to be a requirement. No ID, no vote.

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  • Paul
    11/30/2016
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    It will not change the reality that a frighteningly large share of the electorate demonstrably lacks basic critical thinking ability. But a 'do-over' couldn't hurt.

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  • Mary
    11/30/2016
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    The recount also warns anyone thinking about trying something fraudulent in the future that they may be caught in the act. It is noteworthy that Wisconsin had to remove 5000 votes for Trump that 4 different counties had mysteriously all added to Trump 'by error'. This sort of carelessness or blatant fraud - whichever it was - can not be tolerated!!!!

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  • Michelle
    12/05/2016
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    With all of the influence of Wikileaks and the Russians and evidence that the Trump campaign exerted unfair influence on voters at the voting sites, let's double check. Jill Stein raised the money from private citizens like me. Frankly, I think every election should be audited. What are you people afraid of? The truth?

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  • Ronald
    11/30/2016
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    Recounts seldom, if ever, change the outcome. We should use this effort to validate, or expose fraudulent votes. Here is the opportunity to resolve the fraudulent vote question. This will require outside agencies to oversee, or, at least, monitor the recount. The people that might have sanctioned, or ignored, voter fraud cannot be trusted to expose their own errors, or misdeeds.

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  • Sean
    12/01/2016
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    It's not your taxes paying for it. Jill Stein crowdfunded the money herself so please stop spreading false rumors.

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  • Astoria
    11/30/2016
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    This article is false - both Stein and Clinton have stated that they don't expect/aren't trying to change the outcome of the election. Stein states so on her website, and Clinton herself already conceded the election.

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  • Chris
    12/06/2016
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    As far as I know, no tax dollars are used. Stein raised the money herself ($7 mil+) Please read the facts.

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  • David
    11/30/2016
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    Stein is raising money and getting national exposure. It's what politicians do, prepare for the next election. She is wisely cashing in on the hopes of angry liberals.

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  • Perish
    11/30/2016
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    Great, by all means we should always be scrutinizing the system and asking for greater transparency. Good on you Stein!

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  • Bangaly
    11/30/2016
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    Spending some of our taxpayer $$$ to ensure our way of life ,i.e. our democracy, is safeguarded and still worthy of our trust should be more than encouraged, it is a duty. Sadly we tend to prefer, as a country, building bombs and drop them in places we have no business using them... Let us ensure our own house is in order before we claim we can bring order to others.

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  • John
    11/30/2016
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    Hillary burned her "get out of jail free" card when she joined this futile exercise, and for what? To learn that she did indeed lose this election, that's what. Let's move forward and hold Trump to his words. We the people want action! The Democrats had their chance & squandered it, period. Make America great again? We got a looooong way to go....

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  • Sean
    12/01/2016
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    Pathetic attempt to stir the pot. Grow up

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  • Debbie
    11/30/2016
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    If a recount proves to be in Hillary's favor, then there is only one just and fair thing to do! One thing is for sure... This recount should work to insure that all votes count and enable oversight into preventing election glitches in the future.

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  • Ida
    12/03/2016
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    Sure, do a recount. The U.S. spends a lot of our tax dollars on so many foolish things. What have we got to lose here? OR, is someone afraid of the results?

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  • Bryan
    11/30/2016
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    They can do nothing about the voting. It's a done deal. The left is just sore losers. They are doing just what they hounded trump about when he would let them know after the election. But according to Hillary the system is right and true!!!

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