PHILADELPHIA (WTXF/AP) - A federal judge on Monday issued a stinging rejection of a Green Party-backed request to recount paper ballots in Pennsylvania's presidential election, won narrowly by Republican Donald Trump, and scan some counties' election systems for signs of hacking.
In his 31-page decision, U.S. District Judge Paul Diamond said there were at least six grounds that required him to reject the Green Party's lawsuit, which had been opposed by Trump, the Pennsylvania Republican Party and the Pennsylvania attorney general's office. The Green Party has been successful in at least getting statewide recounts started in Wisconsin and Michigan, but it has failed to get a statewide recount begun or ordered in Pennsylvania.
Suspicion of a hacked Pennsylvania election "borders on the irrational" while granting the Green Party's recount bid could "ensure that that no Pennsylvania vote counts" given Tuesday's federal deadline to certify the vote for the Electoral College, wrote Diamond, an appointee of former President George W. Bush, a Republican.
"Most importantly, there is no credible evidence that any `hack' occurred, and compelling evidence that Pennsylvania's voting system was not in any way compromised," Diamond wrote. He also said the lawsuit suffered from a lack of standing, potentially the lack of federal jurisdiction and an "unexplained, highly prejudicial" wait before filing last week's lawsuit, four weeks after the Nov. 8 election.
The decision was the Green Party's latest roadblock in Pennsylvania after hitting numerous walls in county and state courts. Green Party-backed lawyers argue that it was possible that computer hackers changed the election outcome and that Pennsylvania's heavy use of paperless machines makes it a prime target. Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein also contended that Pennsylvania has erected unconstitutional barriers to voters seeking a recount.
A lawyer for the Green Party said Monday they were disappointed and unable to immediately say whether they would appeal.
"But one thing is clear," said the lawyer, Ilann Maazel. "The Pennsylvania election system is not fair to voters and voters don't know if their votes counted, and that's a very large problem."
It is part of a broader effort by Stein to recount votes in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, three states with a history of supporting Democrats that were narrowly won by Trump over Democrat Hillary Clinton. Stein captured about 1 percent of the vote, or less, in each of the three states.
In Pennsylvania, Trump beat Clinton in Pennsylvania by about 44,000 votes out of 6 million cast.
The Wisconsin recount was expected to conclude Monday. With about 95 percent of the votes recounted as of Sunday, Clinton had gained 25 votes on Trump, but still trailed by about 22,000 votes out of nearly 3 million cast in Wisconsin.
A federal judge halted Michigan's recount last week after three days. Trump won Michigan by fewer than 11,000 votes out of nearly 4.8 million votes cast.
This is the synopsis of the judge’s opinion:
“Unsuccessful Green Party Candidate Jill Stein and Pennsylvania voter Randall Reitz allege that because Pennsylvania’s voting machines might have been “hacked” during last month’s election, I must order the Commonwealth to conduct a recount of the votes cast for President. There are at least six separate grounds requiring me to deny Plaintiffs’ Motion. Most importantly, there is no credible evidence that any “hack” occurred, and compelling evidence that Pennsylvania’s voting system was not in any way compromised. Moreover, Plaintiffs’ lack of standing, the likely absence of federal jurisdiction, and Plaintiffs’ unexplained, highly prejudicial delay in seeking a recount are all fatal to their claims for immediate relief. Further, Plaintiffs have not met any of the requirements for the issuance of a mandatory emergency injunction. Finally, granting the relief Plaintiffs seek would make it impossible for the Commonwealth to certify its Presidential Electors by December 13 (as required by federal law), thus inexcusably disenfranchising some six million Pennsylvania voters. For all these reasons, I am compelled to refuse Plaintiffs’ request for injunctive relief.”
This is text of the actual order:
“AND NOW, this 12th day of December, 2016, upon consideration of Plaintiffs’ Motion for a Preliminary Injunction (Doc. Nos. 4, 5), Defendants’ Response (Doc. No. 42), Intervenors’ Response (Doc. Nos. 38, 38-1), and all related submissions, as well as the evidence and arguments presented at the hearing held on Friday, December 9, 2016, it is hereby ORDERED that Plaintiffs’ Motion (Doc. No. 4) is DENIED for the reasons set forth in the accompanying Memorandum.”