Over the past couple of days we've written numerous times about Jill Stein's recount efforts in WI, MI and PA (see here, here and here). And while it's clear that Stein intends to move forward with recounts in all three states (she's now up to $6.1mm in donations), what is unclear, and quite perplexing, is exactly why she's pursuing these recounts in the first place. Here are the potential justifications from Stein's perspective, as we see them:
- Personal self-interest? - Obviously, No. With less than 1% of the vote in WI, MI and PA, Stein obviously has no shot of winning any of the states in question.
- Hopes of recount tipping states to Hillary? - No. Multiple experts and even Hillary campaign insiders have admitted that overturning election results with a margin of victory of several 1,000 votes is extremely unlikely. To win, Hillary would have to flip WI, MI and PA even though she trails by ~20k, ~12k and ~70k votes in each of those states, respectively...not going to happen.
- Exposing voting machine hacking? - No. Even the Obama administration has confirmed the the election was "free and fair from a cybersecurity perspective" and that votes "accurately reflect the will of the American people." By failing to present even a shred of evidence of vote tampering in her WI recount petition, instead choosing to focus on wild conspiracy theories, Stein effectively also admits that there was no "hacking" of voting machines.
- Fundraising scam to get millions in donations from disaffected Hillary voters? - Maybe. As of right now, Stein has raised ~$6mm of the $7mm she says she needs to fund recount efforts. Assuming Stein goes through with recounts in all three states and her cost estimates are reasonably accurate then she won't really have that much money left over to be added to the general Green Party coffers.
So, with no practical reason for forcing recounts, what exactly is Jill Stein up to?
One theory is that Stein is simply hoping to disrupt the electoral college process to push the 2016 election into the hands Congress while drawing the legitimacy of Trump's presidency into question.
As Edward Foley, an expert in election law at Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University, pointed out to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, electors from around the country have to meet by December 19th to cast their electoral college votes. To the extent recounts in WI, MI and PA have not been completed by that time, which experts assign a high probability that they will not, there is a chance that the electoral votes from those three states wouldn't be counted leaving neither candidate with the required electoral votes to win the presidency (electoral count would be Trump 260 versus Hillary 232).
If the electoral college process fails to select a President then the election would be left in the hands of Congress to decide. Given that the Senate and House are both controlled by Republicans, in theory they would then choose Trump/Pence, though in this election cycle nothing is a certainty. Moreover, even if Trump/Pence are chosen, the whole process of being appointed by Congress, combined with a loss of the popular vote, would then cast a dark shadow over their administration.
Wisconsin's recount will likely begin late next week, once the state has tallied a cost estimate and received payment from Stein's campaign, said Michael Haas, administrator of the Wisconsin Elections Commission.
Political scientist Barry Burden, the director of the Elections Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said it would be extremely difficult to complete the recount on time.
"You may potentially have the state electoral votes at stake if it doesn't get done by then," said Haas.
A lawyer with Stein's campaign has said it wants the recount done by hand. That would take longer and require a judge's order, Haas said.
Perhaps the most important deadline is Dec. 19, when electors around the country must meet to cast their Electoral College votes, said Edward Foley, an expert in election law at Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University.
"That is a hard deadline and if a state were to miss that deadline, it would be technically in jeopardy of not having its electoral votes counted," he said.
Of course, if this theory is even partially true then it's extremely disturbing on a variety of levels. That a person with absolutely no standing. in terms of personal damages, and no presentation of credible evidence of wrongdoing could unilaterally disrupt a presidential election is not only a failure of Stein's personal character but it's a failure of our election rules and procedures that such reckless behavior would be permitted.