In two days, Green Party candidate Jill Stein raised more than enough money, more than $5 million (Dh18.3 million), to file for recounts in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, though her campaign is still seeking about $2 million more to cover the associated legal fees.
Results in these battleground states were narrow, with Republican Donald Trump winning by just 0.3 per cent in Michigan, 1.2 per cent in Pennsylvania, and 0.7 per cent in Wisconsin. If Democrat Hillary Clinton had won all of these states’ 46 electoral college votes, it have would been enough for her to win the presidency.
But the recount process is intensive, expensive and unlikely to change the outcome of the election unless widespread voter fraud is proven. Experts have been sceptical that is the case.
Wisconsin began recount proceedings late on Friday after receiving a petition from Stein. President-elect Trump called Stein’s effort a “scam” and said it was “just a way … to fill her coffers with money, most of which she will never even spend on this ridiculous recount”.
“The results of this election should be respected instead of being challenged and abused,” he added, “which is exactly what Jill Stein is doing.”
Wisconsin election officials have to examine millions of paper ballots and the paper trails of the 5 per cent of votes cast on electronic touchscreen machines.
Wisconsin election commission director Michael Haas told local news that the commission was preparing for a recount, though it had not seen evidence of interference in the state’s voting system. “We don’t have any reason to suspect that any voting equipment has been tampered with,” Haas said.
Unofficial results showed Trump won Wisconsin by more than 27,000 votes. The state has never conducted a presidential recount.
In Pennsylvania, there is no paper trail — a problem election observers anticipated ahead of the 8 November race. “The nightmare scenario would be if Pennsylvania decides the election and it is very close. You would have no paper records to do a recount,” Lawrence Norden, the co-author of a report on voting machines, told the Los Angeles Times in late October.
But because machines there are not connected to the internet, like those in Michigan, officials said they couldn’t be hacked.
Across the whole of the US, about three-quarters of voters mark paper ballots that are counted electronically by an optical scanner, according to the non-partisan group Verified Voting, which examines how new technology affects voting integrity. But some states, including Pennsylvania, rely almost entirely on touchscreen computer voting that does not produce a paper trail. The punch card ballots that resulted in the disputed hanging chads during the Florida recount in 2000 are no longer used.
Trump was declared the winner in Michigan on Thursday by 10,704 votes, and the election director there insists there was no evidence of hacking. “It’s just conjecture, and I don’t think that serves anyone’s good purpose,” said Chris Thomas, the longtime director of Michigan’s Bureau of Elections.