Update Dec. 12, 2016: On Monday, a judge rejected Jill Stein’s request for a recount in Pennsylvania.
AUSTIN, Texas — Despite numerous obstacles ranging from the financial to the political, Green Party presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein is pushing forward with a controversial recount campaign.
“This is not what democracy looks like,” Stein told MintPress News on Thursday.
“Democracy should be all about transparency and accountability and voter participation. What we see in the recount is exactly the opposite.”
Beginning late last month, Stein agreed to spearhead recount efforts in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, citing irregularities in exit polls in these “swing states” and the persistent — though still unproven — claims fueled largely by the Democrats that Russians tampered with the election.
A crowdfunding campaign has netted $7.3 million so far, but the campaign is requesting $9.5 million to cover the costs of forcing a recount in each state. Stein called these high fees a form of “economic extortion” that prevents citizens from easily auditing elections.
“What we have learned from the recount is that there are innumerable obstacles to doing a recount,” Stein said.
The recount continues in Wisconsin, and on Friday, a judge rejected a lawsuit by two political action committees linked to President-elect Donald Trump which sought to block the recount.
“The recount looks like it’s going smoothly and competently,” U.S. District Judge James Peterson said during a hearing, according to the Associated Press.
“The recount is being fought against on every front,” Stein told MintPress.
Trump and the GOP’s opposition to the recount is evidence that the president-elect knows he does not have a clear mandate to lead and only won the election by a thin margin, Stein said. Though the Electoral College is expected to give the presidency to Trump on Dec. 19, Hillary Clinton is ahead by more than 2.6 million in the popular vote.
“We do not consent to a government that does not represent us and appears to be quite worried about its own legitimacy, given how Donald Trump is trying to fight this,” Stein said
In Michigan, Stein and her legal team are vowing to appeal court decisions that blocked the recount after just two days. She noted that numerous irregularities in Michigan elections were revealed in those two days alone, including discrepancies in the number of ballots cast, as recorded by poll workers, compared with the total number of votes, as recorded by voting machines, in 392 out of 662 voting precincts in Detroit, a primarily Democratic-leaning city. At least 87 optical scanners used to read ballots also broke on Election Day.
“Human errors occur that may be small but which result in the failure to be able to verify and count tens of thousands of votes, and this is routinely happening now in Detroit,” Stein said.
Discrepancies seem concentrated around Detroit’s minority communities. Stein compared the city’s voting infrastructure to its schools, both of which are chronically underfunded in non-white neighborhoods.
“If you live in a community of color you do not have the right to be reassured and check that your vote is ok,” Stein said. “You can do that if you’re in a white, suburban community that doesn’t have the same kinds of infrastructure problems.”
Though alarming, this finding is in line with years of research into race-based voting disenfranchisement. In 2006, Greg Palast, a reporter and author of books including “The Best Democracy Money Can Buy,” told Democracy Now! that U.S. voting data shows that racial minorities are far more likely to have their votes discounted or lost than whites. Describing his analysis of 2004 election data, he recalled:
“If you’re a black person, the chance your ballot will be technically invalidated is 900 percent higher than if you’re a white voter. Hispanic voter, 500 percent higher than if you’re a white voter. Native Americans, it’s like 2,000 percent higher than if you’re a white voter.”
While Stein said the legal battle to force a Michigan recount is not over yet, she added: “We are now moving into the court of public opinion.”
Using the momentum initiated by the recount, she said, “‘We are going to grow this movement for a voting system that is accurate, secure and just.”
Moving forward, she wants to see successful state-wide electoral reforms adopted as a model for nationwide voting reform. After a popular movement for election reform, New Mexico passed a law in 2006 retiring all paperless electronic voting machines. The state now requires voter verified paper ballots and automatic post-election audits of paper voting records, and allows no-fault absentee voting.
And this year, voters in Maine agreed to use ranked-choice voting to determine most officeholders in future elections. Under ranked-choice voting systems, voters choose more than one candidate for each office, ranked in order of preference, with votes rolling over to their second or even third choices if their preferred candidates fail to garner enough support.
“Ranked-choice voting would require the Democrats to really step up to the plate and try to earn your vote, not just scare you into voting for them,” Stein said.
Stein envisions a mass movement to repair American democracy. Key reforms she cited include rolling back the massive fees needed for recounts, discontinuing the use of unreliable and error-prone voting machines, opening debates to third-party candidates, and bringing an end to voter ID laws and other forms of disenfranchisement that force mostly minority voters off the voting rolls.
Stein noted that it’s much harder to fix serious problems facing the country, including unchecked police brutality, global warming, and endless wars, when Americans are unable to reliably vote for candidates who promise to implement solutions to these crises.
“For all those reasons, our vote really is the bedrock of our democracy and we need to stand up and fight for it,” she urged.