Trump Allowed to Join Fight Against Pennsylvania Recount

  • GOP says lawsuit could delay president-elect’s inauguration
  • Judge sets Dec. 9 hearing to decide on recount going ahead

Stein: Recount Not an Effort to Overturn Election Outcome

A federal judge will allow President-elect Donald Trump and running mate Mike Pence to fight in court against Green Party candidate Jill Stein’s request for a Pennsylvania recount, after Republican leaders said reviewing millions of ballots in the state could delay the inauguration.

A ruling Tuesday allows Trump’s lawyers to intervene in a lawsuit filed by Stein’s campaign even though they weren’t named as defendants. The order also allows Pennsylvania’s electors to weigh in to ensure they can fulfill their duties for the Electoral College by casting their votes for president and vice president on Dec. 19.

Trump and Pence “have certainly demonstrated that they have an immediate and substantial interest in this litigation that may not adequately be protected absent their participation,” U.S. District Judge Paul S. Diamond in Philadelphia said in his decision. Diamond set a hearing for Dec. 9 for arguments on whether the recount should proceed.

Stein, who finished fourth in the election with about 1 percent of the vote, seeks a recount of paper ballots where optical scan machines were used, and a forensic probe of software in counties that used electronic voting machines. She didn’t challenge Republicans’ request to intervene in the lawsuit, which was filed on Monday. Trump’s inauguration as the 45th president is set for Jan. 20.

In another anti-Trump effort aimed focused on the Electoral College, two Colorado residents on Tuesday sued the governor and other officials over claims the state illegally requires them as electors to cast their ballots for presidential and vice-presidential candidates.

Polly Baca and Robert Nemanich, who say Trump and Pence are unfit for office, argue in their complaint that the law is unconstitutional and seek a court order blocking state officials from removing or replacing electors who vote for a candidate who didn’t receive the most votes in the general election. While the two are required to vote for Democrat Hillary Clinton, who won Colorado, they believe that by winning the legal right to vote for a candidate other than her, electors in other states may switch their votes from Trump and keep him from reaching the winning 270 electoral votes he needs to win, according to the complaint.

Electors are “entitled to exercise their judgment and free will to vote for whomever they believe to be the most qualified and fit,” the two said.

Colorado is one of four states that requires individual electors to cast their presidential ballots for candidates who won the popular vote. Nevada, Wyoming and Nebraska impose similar requirements on their electors.

Two electors from Texas have balked at voting for Trump who won the state by more than 800,000 votes. Art Sisneros resigned his post as presidential elector in November saying that “Voting for Trump would bring dishonor to God." Christopher Suprun wrote Monday in a New York Times guest column that he won’t vote for Trump because “he shows daily he is not qualified for the office.”

Recount Efforts

Stein’s efforts, based on claims of potential hacking and foreign interference, has already led to recounts that are underway in Wisconsin and Michigan despite efforts by Republicans to stop them.

The recount efforts come as Clinton leads the popular vote by more than 2 million ballots. There is no indication that the reviews -- if they are completed -- would affect Trump’s comfortable margin of victory in the Electoral College. Stein’s team has said the recounts are about affirming the integrity of the democratic process rather than to flip the election to Clinton.

In Pennsylvania, the GOP argues the recount suit could cause the state to miss a Dec. 13 deadline for certification by Governor Tom Wolf -- a requirement before the electors, who actually elect the president and vice president under the Constitution, can cast their votes. Stein’s team said the recount should only take a few days.

‘National Disgrace’

Stein’s attorneys on Tuesday also filed several affidavits by Pennsylvania voters who dropped a state-court lawsuit because they couldn’t afford a $1 million bond required by the court to proceed with the case. The voters said they back the recount effort because they don’t have faith in the state’s election system, which Stein has referred to as a “national disgrace.”

Hackers could have easily infected Pennsylvania’s voting machines with malware designed to lay dormant for weeks, pop up on Election Day and then erase itself without a trace, according to an affidavit in the earlier state case filed on Stein’s behalf by J. Alex Halderman, a professor of computer science and engineering at the University of Michigan.

States’ responses to cybersecurity concerns have been “patchy and inconsistent,” even though American voting machines have serious problems, Halderman said in the court filing. Hackers “can cause the machines to provide any result of the attacker’s choosing,” he said.

Halderman, who is also director of the university’s Center for Computer Security and Society, cited reports of Russian hacking of voting machines in Ukraine’s 2014 election, as well as statements this year by U.S. officials who say election-related hacking was driven by senior Russian officials.

Trump’s lawyers have said in court filings that Stein’s case lacks any evidence of actual hacking or foreign interference.

The case is Stein v. Cortes, 16-cv-06287, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia).

— With assistance by Joel Rosenblatt, and Kartikay Mehrotra

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