The presidential election that was settled has become a bit unsettled in the last week, after failed Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein announced her intention to hold recounts in three critical swing states. Stein alleges that foreign hackers could’ve exploited vulnerable voting machines and points to the proven instances of hacked voting registration offices as reasons to re-examine the ballots.
Let’s just stop here for one hot minute: Short of a discovery that Vladimir Putin himself turned in a bunch of absentee ballots in Wisconsin, it is highly unlikely that the election’s outcome will change.
So the recounts that are advancing in Wisconsin and will mostly likely happen in Pennsylvania and Michigan could be seen as legitimizing conspiracy theories that call into question, well, America’s democracy.
This segment originally aired Nov. 28, 2016, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.
On one hand, Stein IS exercising her right to challenge election results. “Whether we find evidence of tampering or not, it’s very important that we move forward with reforms to our voting system that provide us that safety net, that provide us that peace of mind, as we close out this election, to know that in fact our votes were counted, they were counted properly and that they took place securely,” Stein told Vice News.
But widespread voter fraud and election hacking have never been proven in America. In the past, claims of systemic election vulnerabilities have been used to call for tougher voter ID laws and wielded as a political tool to sow doubt in election results.
Which is why eyebrows went up around the country when Donald Trump tweeted that millions of ballots were cast illegally and singled out the states of Virginia, New Hampshire and California for “serious voter fraud.”
Election officials in all three states in question have pushed back and called the allegations “unfounded” or “unsubstantiated.” Both the New York Times and the Washington Post referred to Trump’s tale of illegal votes as a “baseless claim.”
But this election has long been under a cloud of illegitimacy. Trump doubted the legitimacy of Barack Obama for years and he spent much of 2016 warning his supporters of the “rigged system” and the “phony” polls. Americans have been primed to believe the system isn’t representative of the actual results, so the need for a recount is one of those ideas that won’t simply go away now that the seed of doubt has been sowed.
But if you’re Hillary Clinton, who everyone assumes would be the one to benefit the most from fraud being uncovered, what do you do?
The Clinton campaign has chosen to warily observe from the sidelines. “We are not assisting the Green Party in any way. Nor do we support the call for the recount, nor are we pushing for it,” one Clinton campaign official said. They are sending their own legal teams to monitor recounts, but they “will not be initiating recounts anywhere.”