Thursday, December 8, 2016

Michigan Election Officials Refuse to Recount Thousands of Ballots in State's Communities of Color

The Green Party's best chance to overturn a statewide victory by Donald Trump has run into a swamp of dubious election protocols in Michigan, where Detroit officials said nearly two-thirds of the precincts cannot be recounted because of poor record-keeping on or after election night -- presumably the rationale for a recount.

That unexpected hurdle, which was also present in other southeastern Michigan counties with communities of color such as Flint and Lansing and where Hillary Clinton won by the largest margins, emerged as the Trump campaign and Republicans pursued appeals in federal and state courts to block the recount. (Late Tuesday, the two courts issued contradictory rulings allowing it to continue.)

Meanwhile, in the state's legislature, a House committee passed a bill retroactively requiring the Greens to pay more for the recount.

"Donald Trump and GOP allies in Michigan are launching an attack against the recount, and attempting to strip the constitutional and civil rights of Michigan voters who are demanding that their voices be heard," Jill Stein said earlier Tuesday. Her campaign is focused on verifying whether over 75,000 people did not cast votes for president in a state Trump leads by under 11,000 votes.

"In addition to verifying the reliability of our voting machines, this recount has begun to expose a modern-day electoral Jim Crow," Stein said. "Hand-counting the ballots has revealed many irregularities and red flags about the quality and maintenance of voting technology, the handling of ballots, and other aspects of election administration in communities of color. This raises serious questions about whether historically marginalized communities have been massively disenfranchised during this election."   

Meanwhile, in Wisconsin, where it does not appear Clinton will emerge as the winner in the recount, election integrity activists not working for Stein have discovered a serious security vulnerability to voting systems in many counties including Milwaukee, where ballot scanners have cellphone network SIM cards to transmit precinct vote totals to the county office. The state has said no Wisconsin voting systems are connected to the internet to guard against hackers, but one computer scientist who filed an affidavit supporting the Greens' lawsuit for hand-counting ballots said such connectivity was standard -- and accessible to hackers.

"There are hacks involving the public switched telephone network that are quite distinct from internet hacks, but just as dangerous," said Doug Jones, a University of Iowa associate professor of computer science. "I would not be shocked to find that the [ESS ballot scanner] DS200 is vulnerable to some of these, but I do not know it to be vulnerable." In other words, Jones, who has studied voting machines for many years, said the election integrity activists have legitimate concerns, even if he has not seen counts compromised this way. "I don't find this surprising," he said. "It appears that numerous communications options are available, and Milwaukee has selected the one that doesn't require them to make sure that polling places have landlines."

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