Lessons from the “recount”. What would have happened here?

The Nation, hopefully, learned some lessons about our existing “recounts” after the November Election.  We learned some disappointing lessons in three states.  We likely would have learned similar lessons in the other states that have recounts.  Remember that only about half the states have recounts at all.  What might we have learned about Connecticut’s recanvasses?

We recommend three articles and comment on Connecticut’s recanvasses.

From the Washington Post: Jill Stein has done the nation a tremendous public service <read>

To start, we must recognize that what we saw in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania were recounts in name only. Though more than 161,000 people across the nation donated to the effort — and millions more demanded it with their voices — every imaginable financial, legal and political obstacle was thrown in the way of the recounts…

n an election tarnished by unreliable, insecure and unverifiable voting machines, ordinary Americans should at least be able to make sure their votes are counted, especially in states with razor-thin margins.

Beyond the obstacles to the recounts themselves were the irregularities and anomalies we uncovered while counting. The recounts did not confirm the integrity or security of our voting system; they revealed its vulnerability…

During the course of our representation, we consulted some of the world’s leading experts in computer science and cybersecurity. They all agreed on two fundamental points: First, much of our voting machinery is antiquated, faulty and highly vulnerable to breach; second, it would be irresponsible not to verify the accuracy of the vote to the greatest extent possible…

The campaign to verify the vote should be nonpartisan. Stein has done the nation a real service in demanding these recounts. By refusing to surrender in the face of significant resistance and criticism, she has exposed problems in our voting system and shown a way forward for reforms that will protect our democracy in a new age of vulnerability.

From the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Candice Hoke compares Pennsylvania to Ohio: Pennsylvania’s voting system is one of the worst <read>

State officials don’t know if our elections have been hacked, and they don’t seem to care

…Experts in election technology have pointed out that most Pennsylvania counties — including Allegheny — use e-voting systems that have been outlawed by most states. The chief reason? The omission of voter-approved paper printouts that can be recounted and that allow for audits to check on the accuracy of the electronic machines. Even when voting systems are aged and vulnerable to hacking or tampering, durable paper ballots combined with quality-assurance audits can ensure trustworthy results.

Cuyahoga County [Ohio]election officials, like many around the nation, have learned that, even though their voting machines are certified and function perfectly one day, on another day they may fail to count accurately. Software bugs — especially from updates, malware and errors in programming — can lead to unpredictable inaccuracies. Cuyahoga County now conducts an audit after every election, using paper ballots, which most Pennsylvania counties are unable to do.

Paper ballots plus audits assure voters their choices have been accurately registered and that no partisan tampering, hacking or software glitches have affected the results of an election. Election officials can evaluate the accuracy of electronic voting systems and correct any tabulation problems. And no adversary — not even a foreign nation with sophisticated espionage capabilities — can manipulate elections results with e-invasions…

Unfortunately, Pennsylvania does not provide any of these assurances to voters, candidates, political parties or the nation. Instead, Pennsylvania law mandates little transparency or accountability when it comes to its computer-generated election tallies — something no business organization would tolerate in its information systems…

And yet, in Pennsylvania those officials close off all avenues by which forensic checks for evidence of tampering or miscounts could occur, then claim that no such evidence exists and that therefore Pennsylvania election systems are secure and accurate. This is utter nonsense. And it defies core principles of cyber risk management.

From a losing State Senate candidate in Colorado: Despite Jill Stein, Election Integrity Should Not Be A Partisan Issue  <read>

The recount in Wisconsin financed by two losing candidates, Jill Stein and Hillary Clinton, was a total farce, but hopefully it will not also become a tragedy. That could happen if the partisan motivation behind that episode gives election integrity concerns and complaints a bad name…

I have seen some of those weaknesses and vulnerabilities up close and personal. In Colorado on November 8, I lost my own race for re-election to the Colorado State Senate by 1,478 votes out of 81,774 ballots cast, or less than 2%. Our Republican judges and poll watchers observed numerous irregularities, and we can prove some fraudulent votes were cast. I did not demand a recount because the errors and fraud do not appear to be on a large enough scale to affect the outcome. Nonetheless, those weaknesses leave me with less than 100% confidence in the accuracy and integrity of the final count.

If there were 270 Republican ballots with questionable signatures, and Republicans are only 34% of registered voters, that means there were probably over 800 ballots with questionable signatures in that one legislative district alone. The Colorado Voter Group, a watchdog organization promoting election security, believes our signature verification system is inadequate and wide open to abuse.

What if Connecticut was one of the close states?

In summary, we don’t know exactly what would happen.

  • Unlike other states, Connecticut has no law for citizens to call for a recount.  They could always go to court and attempt with evidence to get a judge to order a recount.  That would likely end up in appeals court and likely the Supreme Court.
  • Unlike other states, we do not have a recount – the word does not appear in our statutes.  We have a recanvass which is something like a machine recount.
  • Our close-vote recanvass is at the 0.5% margin typical in other states. Yet is limited to margins of under 2000 votes.  So in this past November election by our calculatinsthat would be a margin of about 0.12%.
  • Unlike recounts in other states, our recanvasses are not closely observable by the general public. The law is a bit ambiguous, yet there are only a very limited number of observers allowed to each candidate and party, at most two each.  So, a town could easily have a recanvass with twenty-five teams of counters, with a Jill Stein, Hillary Clintion, and Donald Trump limited to two close observers each. Hardly enough to closely observe ballots marks counted at 25 tables.
  • Unlike recounts in other states, parties and candidates have no standing to object to the proceedings or to participate and dispute the counting of particular ballots.  In practice party lawyers observe the process to find procedural errors to take to court and call for a “recount”.  The last time that happened, the result was a repeat recanvass, with a party lawyer put in charge (it was a primary).  The only difference was that he sat and watched while essentially the same process was repeated.
  • In practice, the recanvasses vary in their interpretation and adherence to the law from town to town.  Recall that was one of the Supreme Court’s objection to the Florida recount in Gore v. Bush – that it was unfair, because it was not uniform across Florida Counties.

Our best guess is that Connecticut would rank close to Pennsylvania.  Observed variations and poor recanvass procedures, with courts sooner or later. stopping or blocking the recanvass.


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