In the last few weeks, Jill Stein has requested recounts in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan.
While recounts are not necessarily uncommon after an election, what makes this one interesting is it’s being requested by a candidate with virtually no chance of winning. She’s not even expecting a change in the outcome of the election.
So why is she putting time and a lot of money into a recount? In a rally outside of Trump Tower yesterday, Stein said she was hoping this recount would ensure this election was accurate, secure and just — a cause that’s found support among some people in the wake of several high-profile hacking incidents during the campaign.
“Given that she states her goal is accuracy and verification, that sounds like the language for an audit,” Ned Foley, the director of Election Law at Moritz at Ohio State’s law school tells Business Insider. “She’s calling for a recount to perform the function of an audit.”
Voting experts are making the distinction between a recount and an audit, explaining that a recount is simply a re-tabulation of the votes cast. An audit, on the other hand, would verify that systems were functioning properly.
Currently, over half the states have post-election audit systems to verify that the equipment and procedures used during an election were up to snuff before the results are officially certified. These states usually look at a percentage of counties and verify the votes. If they don’t find any glaring problems, the auditors can be statistically confident with the results of the election.
According to a Pew Research Center, both Pennsylvania and Wisconsin have post-election audit systems. Michigan does not have an audit system, but it’s important to note that the state’s residents vote on optical scan machines, a type of machine that’s considered less vulnerable to hacking than the paperless, touchscreen machines used in some other states.
In other words, the three states where recounts have been requested wouldn’t appear to carry a major risk of undetected irregularities or problems with the voting equipment or processes.
So despite Stein’s efforts, when the recount processes are completed, little will have changed. Trump is still likely to have the majority of electoral votes, and Hillary Clinton will not be president (neither will Jill Stein for that matter).
But what Americans might gain from all of this is a better understanding of what happens after an election. And if you’re truly worried that our election machines could get hacked, then you should encourage your state government to implement post-election audits for the future.