In an effort being lead by Jill Stein, the Green Party’s 2016 presidential candidate, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan could all be asked to recount the votes from 2016 election.
The process is expected to take a long time (even longer since Stein has requested hand-counting each vote), and there is some potential that the recounts may not be completed by the December deadline to certify results for the Electoral College.
There are two issues at play.
The first issue is that there is no evidence that any tampering with the 2016 election has taken place. In fact, the only reports during election day of tampering were of people who said Trump votes were being switched and counted for Clinton. What’s more, all three states largely rely on (or only use) paper ballots, which cannot be altered directly – only after they have been electronically processed.
The second issue is that Trump’s advantages in Wisconsin (27,000+) and Pennsylvania (68,000+) are simply too large to expect there will be any change in the results. The largest vote swing following a recount in a U.S. presidential election came in Florida in 2000. At that time, Al Gore managed to reduce President George Bush’s lead by only 1,247 votes. Think about it for a moment. Florida has about 20 million people, whereas Wisconsin has about 5.8 million people. The odds that a state with less than 1/3 the population will somehow net a change in votes that is more than 20 times greater is just not within the realm of reality.
So, this does beg the question, “If there is no evidence of fraud or a way the result will change, what is the real motivation for Jill Stein’s recount requests?”
Why is Jill Stein asking for recounts?
Jill Stein has acknowledge in an interview with CNN that she does not know if hacking took place, and nor does she have any evidence voting machines were tampered with in any way. As I noted above, since the core states she is challenging use paper ballots, the likelihood of any tampering is even lower.
If we take Stein at her word, she cites as her concern the email hacks and database breaches that we have seen during this election cycle. Hillary Clinton’s campaign head, John Podesta, had his emails hacked, and the DNC database was accessed and released publicly. Stein believes this should be proof enough of the potential for voting malfeasance. Stein also notes that there is potential for fraud due to the voting systems potential vulnerabilities.
None of those are entirely implausible reasons, however unlikely they may be.
But it is a solution without a problem. Or put another way – a “fishing expedition.”
With that said, Stein, as a candidate for President in all those states, does have a legal right to request a recount – the validity of her reasons not withstanding.
Of course, since there is no reasonable way for the recount to impact the election results in those states, it has fueled politically conservative media groups to speculate on Stein’s motivations.
Quite a few have suggested (eg, The Gateway Pundit and The American Thinker) that her reason is to subtly try and prevent Trump from having 270 certified electoral college votes. If the process in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan is too slow, and does not get completed by the December 13th deadline, the electoral votes from those states would be nullified for when the electors vote on December 19th. This, the theory goes, will give Trump less than the 270 electoral votes required. This would require Congress to determine if it includes the votes on January 6, 2017, or needs to take other action – such directly voting him as President. In either scenario, Trump would still be elected President of the United States. So, why do it? The conservative media theory is that it would make Trump seem even less legitimate going into office – a candidate who did not win the popular vote, and did not officially win the electoral college vote.
I find this rationale to not be very compelling.
Because that would presume that Stein’s motivation is to create short-term damage to Trump’s image that would have no bearing whatsoever on his agenda, nor the agenda of the GOP majority in Congress, nor on their ability to implement their agendas. Why would Stein take on such an effort for such a petty result? A result that does not benefit her campaign or her Green Party in any meaningful way? And a result that most Americans would see came about only because of the recount effort? The short answer is – Stein would not. There is no grand conspiracy here by her or her campaign to deny electoral college votes or to try and damage Trump’s election legitimacy.
So, why do it?
The real answer to why Stein is doing this is far more simple: M-O-N-E-Y.
In a different interview with CNN, Stein, referring to the money raised for the recount effort, gleefully pointed out, “We did not have to work to raise that money!” She was incredibly excited about that fact. She said to CNN that they just let this recount effort be known, and cash started pouring in. In fact, all they really had to do was issue a press release, and put up a website – a point Stein makes in her interview. Now, they get to watch the dollars roll in from angry Hillary Clinton supporters who are willing to place hope into ANY effort that will change the election result, regardless of how futile.
Stein gets another benefit as well: publicity. It’s not the main goal, but it is a nice consolation prize. If you recall, Stein was a candidate who did not fare well in her limited media interviews, especially when asked complex questions on matters of policy. As she gained media attention during the campaign, she saw her national support in the polls steadily erode from the spring and summer to election day. By September, Stein was not really discussed and had little to no impact on the election results.
By tapping into the anger of Clinton voters who desperately want the election result changed, she gets to appear as the savior of the left – doing what the Democrats and others won’t do to try and safeguard the integrity of America’s election system.
However, more than publicity, Stein is looking to make some financial gains.
How do we know this?
Well, one interesting aspect of her fundraising effort is that the estimated costs for Stein’s recounts have increased dramatically over the past few days – coinciding with donations almost reaching their goals.
Stein started out asking for $2.5 million, which would have covered the filing fees in all states, plus provided a $1 million cushion for legal and other costs. A solid safety net. And for a group that has sought recounts before and has experience doing this (experience Stein herself mentions in interviews), you would assume they knew what they were doing when they set their initial goals.
However, once the money starting rolling in and $2.5 million was clearly going to be reached, guess what happened? The goal on the website increased to $4.5 million. Since the cost of the filing fees did not increase (they were previously set by each state), and the cost of counting ballots did not change, then something else must have changed.
What changed? The money that came into the campaign.
After the goal was increased, the effort then generated more buzz in the media and online. As a result, more money flowed into the campaign. Guess what happened a day later when the $4.5 million goal was within reach? The goal increased again – this time to $7 million.
Did the cost for lawyers really grow by $6 million dollars over a few days? Of course not.
Another fact not to lose sight of is that this effort also is not being done by the Green Party itself, but by the Stein / Baraka Green Party Campaign. A campaign that has over $80,000 in debt. A campaign that only managed to raise about $3.5 million over the course of the entire election cycle could now raise close to $7 million in a few days with little to no effort. Since this is a campaign activity, and not a Green Party one, Stein has far more control over where / to whom the extra money goes.
With that said, I do not fault Jill Stein for taking advantage of the moment to get her pay day.
She gets the additional benefit of boosting her name recognition after it disappeared from the election water-cooler conversations, retire debt, and assume a role as champion for disaffected Clinton supporters and Democrats.
Is it a bit unseemly to profit off Americans unhappy with the election result? Sure.
It also is pretty ironic that someone who lambastes the free-market economy of the U.S., and prefers larger and more centralized government, not to mention – criticizes the “elites” of the two-party political system for enriching themselves and playing off the emotions of the electorate, would do exactly what the professional politicians do.
But let’s not forget, Jill Stein has been in politics for a long time. She ran for governor of Massachusetts in 2002. She has been running for various state and local offices for many years. Then she turned to national politics and ran for President in 2012 (after a failed run for Massachusetts Governor in 2010), and again in 2016.
Perhaps the one thing we should take out of Jill Stein’s recount effort is the lesson it teaches us about politics in America? Namely, if one wants to make American politics more honest and ethical, one cannot remain in it for too long.
It reminds me of the Mark Twain quote, that “Politicians and diapers must be changed often, and for the same reason.”
Eventually, the power and the system corrupts you. Before too long, you end up being just like the very people you are trying to replace: selfish and in it for the money and fame.