Not even a month has passed since Donald Trump was elected president of the US, and already his victory is under scrutiny.
Almost immediately after Trump claimed victory, the Green Party’s nominee for president, Jill Stein, began a publicly funded campaign for a recount in so-called battleground states, which narrowly went to Trump, to investigate what she calls a “broken” electoral system.
Why has Stein called for a recount?
During the US presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton’s team continually reminded voters that Russian hackers were attempting to infiltrate voting systems to manipulate the result of the election.
Stein, along with a group of scientists from the University of Michigan led by professor of computer sciences J. Alex Halderman, have campaigned for a recount due to concerns Russian hacking and malfunctions in electronic voting booths impacted the election result.
Which states will have a recount?
Stein has raised more than $6.3 million to conduct a recount in three states. Stein has targeted Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan.
Election result estimates have Trump defeating Clinton by 27,257 votes in Wisconsin, 70,010 votes in Pennsylvania and in 10,704 votes in Michigan.
As it stands, Stein has secured a recount for Wisconsin, having met the Friday 5pm deadline last week with hours to spare. However, the Wisconsin Elections Commission has said that it has rejected a request from Stein to have the election recounted by hand. Stein has since stated that she will sue the commission over the decision.
The deadline to request a recount in Pennsylvania is November 28 (US), and Stein has requested a deadline in that state; Michigan’s deadline is Wednesday, November 30 (US).
What is the process of recounting votes?
There are two ways to go about an election recount. The first is through a machine, which involves a re-tabulation of the results. The second and more commonly requested method involves a manual recount performed by hand.
A candidate may request a recount, finance it and be reimbursed if the result is reversed. In some states, an automatic recount can be called where there is a very small margin of victory.
The seminal case for election recounts in the US was the 2000 presidential election. This was the election that brought George Bush the Younger to power. The state of Florida was subject to a recount amid concerns from Democratic nominee Al Gore that the Florida vote was improperly conducted.
The Florida election controversy began when televised networks, initially, called the state for Gore. The networks then updated the result and called it for Bush and finally updated a third time with a “too close to call” result.
Bush won Florida by 1784 votes — a margin so small that it required an automatic recount under Florida state law.
However, the US Supreme Court soon intervened, voting five to four in favour of Bush in Bush v Gore. This judgment stopped the recount at a point when Bush was just 537 votes up on Gore.
Does Clinton support the recount?
Clinton has been publicly silent. But the Clinton campaign’s general counsel Marc Elias released a statement on Saturday that said that the Clinton campaign would be in support of a recount in Wisconsin.
“Over the last few days, officials in the Clinton campaign have received hundreds of messages, emails, and calls urging us to do something, anything, to investigate claims that the election results were hacked and altered in a way to disadvantage Secretary Clinton.”
“Because we had not uncovered any actionable evidence of hacking or outside attempts to alter the voting technology, we had not planned to exercise this option ourselves, but now that a recount has been initiated in Wisconsin, we intend to participate in order to ensure the process proceeds in a manner that is fair to all sides.”
In his statement, Marc Elias says that since the day after the election, the Clinton campaign has met with data scientists, analysts and experts to determine whether or not there were any “anomalies” in the result.
What has Trump said about the recount?
Predictably, Donald Trump has taken to Twitter to raise his dissatisfaction over the recount in a barrage of tweets, criticising Jill Stein and labelling the Democrats as hypocrites.
Trump has also hit back at criticism by suggesting (without providing evidence) that were it not for “illegal” voting, he would have won the popular vote.
How much will it cost?
Jill Stein’s campaign began modestly, with a $2.5 million target, which has ballooned to over $6.3 million.
Each state has different cost requirements for recounts. In Wisconsin, a recount may be sought only if the winning margin is not greater than 0.25% of the overall vote. Wisconsin also requires an upfront payment.
The Wisconsin Elections Commission has said that the last statewide recount in 2011 for a state Supreme Court vote totalled $520,000. However, the presidential race tallied more than double the amount of votes than the state Supreme Court election, which means the recount would come at double the cost — over $1 million.
Legal representation is crucial in a recount bid, which could be as much as $2 million for the three states.
Can the recount reverse the result?
This is very unlikely. Trump’s combined winning margin for Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan is over 107,000 votes. As well as this, Clinton would need to claim 22 more electoral college votes to topple Trump.
Bernie Sanders has said publicly that although he does not expect the result to change, Stein has a legal right to launch a campaign, which the Democrats can support.
Recounts also have a poor history of reversing election results. According to nonpartisan group FairVote, of the 4687 US state-wide elections from 2000-2015, 27 were followed by a recount, with only three being successful in reversing the original result.
The biggest swing in a presidential election recount was the Florida recount where Gore received 1247 more votes. For Clinton to win Wisconsin, she will need more than 25,000 votes extra votes.