Picture of people holding signs about why they want a recount of the Presidential and US Senate races in the 2016 elections in Pennsylvania

Rally: We Want a Recount in PA

This morning, citizens from throughout Pennsylvania came to the Capital Complex in Harrisburg to say that we want to ensure that the ballots cast in the most recent election were accurately counted.  Chants of “Count Every Vote” rang out throughout the Rotunda with people holding signs like

  • STAND UP 4 DEMOCRACY! Hand Recount NOW!!!
  • Count All Votes
  • We need a Paper Trail
  • Military Families Have Earned Transparent Democracy #RecountPA
  • PA’s voting machines are outlawed in some states!
  • Hand Recount NOW
  • SHOW CODE
  • Restore my Faith. #RecountPA
  • It’s a Recount, not a Rerun
Picture of people holding signs about why they want a recount of the Presidential and US Senate races in the 2016 elections in Pennsylvania

Citizens of PA calling for a recount in Pennsylvania

This rally occurred about an hour after Jill Stein announced that she was had filed suit in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia).  She called Pennsylvania’s voting system a “disgrace.” Her federal complaint said, in part,

“Voters are forced to use vulnerable, hackable, antiquated technology banned in other states, then rely on the kindness of machines. There is no paper trail. Voting machines are electoral black sites: no one permits voters or candidates to examine them.”

There were five speakers at the rally.  Carl Romanelli, the 2006 Green Party Candidate for the US Senate spoke first. He discussed Jill Stein’s federal complaint, a need to have a forensic review/audit of the electronic voting machines, and a manual recount of the paper ballots in the few counties that have a paper trail.

Pat LaMarche,  the 2004 Green Party Vice-Presidential Candidate, spoke next. She blasted the PA Commonwealth Court, saying “Shame on you!” for demanding that the 100 Pennsylvania citizens  (not Stein’s campaign) put up a $1,000,000 bond for the court to hold the hearing on whether or not to recount and audit the votes in Pennsylvania.

Next up was MaryBeth Kuznick, President of VotePA. VotePA is a statewide citizen’s organization that believes in fair and open elections in Pennsylvania.  This group is leading “the fight against unverifiable paperless electronic voting and dangerous internet voting in Pennsylvania.”  She talked about her experiences as a recount monitor in the Ohio presidential recount in 2004.  She also spoke of the electronic voting machines that have either been outlawed or required to have a voter-verifiable paper trail in other states, including Ohio and California.  These very same machines, now over a decade old, are still used in most counties in Pennsylvania, BUT without any paper trail at all.

I was the next speaker.  Representing Concerned Voters of Centre County, my county’s local version of VotePA, I talked about my experiences with both the electronic voting machines (commonly called a DRE) in 2006 and my experiences with this year’s election.

  • In 2006, I personally witnessed a gentleman attempting to vote on our DRE machines.  Every time he tried to punch the voting square for the Republican candidate for Governor, the screen said he was voting for the Democratic candidate.  After multiple attempts to get the machine to register his vote correctly, he complained to the Judge of Elections. She told him to go back and try again because his “fingernails were too long” and he wasn’t punching the screen correctly.  I followed him out of the polling place and told him that even though I didn’t vote for his candidate, I believed that he had an absolute right to have his vote recorded correctly.  The two of us went to the Board of Elections the next day and filed a complaint.  Two years later, after voting in a new set of County Commissioners, this incident along with others resulted in the new Board ordering our DRE’s to be replaced by scannable paper ballots.
  • This year, over concerns about whether our ballots across the state were accurately counted, Concerned Voters of Centre County joined in with many other counties throughout Pennsylvania calling for a citizen-initiated precinct level recount.  Over 100 citizens in 32 Centre County precincts (over 1/3 of the county’s precincts) successfully filed our affidavits on Monday, November 28.  Unfortunately, due to how the county solicitor defined “day,” our petitions were thrown out; we were told that they were not “timely.”  The vote count was certified even after we raised what the Board of Elections considered a legitimate complaint; in at least one precinct, a provisional ballot was counted even though the voter who put the provisional ballot through the scanner had not been verified as a registered voter.

Finally, Dr. Candice Hoke spoke.  She is a lawyer, cyber-security professor, and Director of the Center for Election Integrity at Cleveland State University. Hoke talked about the legal (Constitutional)  and security issues surrounding the election process in Pennsylvania. As an elections lawyer, she discussed the Constitutional mandate for a complete, open, and fair election process that doesn’t stop once you cast your ballot; it only ends once you can ensure that the vote is accurate. Then putting on her election cyber-security hat, she talked about what can and has gone wrong with the electronic “ballot boxes” we’ve been using across the country and the serious problems we have with the unverifiable DRE voting system we have in Pennsylvania.  Her bottom line was that with the lack of a statewide voter-verified paper trail, aging electronic voting and scanning machines, and the inability/refusal to do a forensic audit of the machines and voting, the results of this election are in doubt.

Here’s her full speech.

The arguments for a recount/audit are being made in the public arena and in the courts.

For the integrity of our voting system AND for the health of our democracy.  We now wait to see what happens next.

Centre County Citizens Attempt a Recount of the November 2016 Election

Over the Thanksgiving Holiday Weekend, citizens from around Centre County, PA joined together to call for a full manual recount of the Presidential and US Senate races within their individual voting precincts.

In Pennsylvania, there are three ways that a recount of the votes can be held.  The first type occurs when the top two candidates total vote count is within a half percent of each other.  This was not the case in either the presidential race or the US Senate race.

The second way allows either a candidate or registered voters to file a recount petition with the courts.  On Monday, November 28,  Jill Stein—Green Party Candidate for President—filed a petition in Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court to hold a full statewide recount.  The hearing before the Court is scheduled for 10 am, Monday, December 5.  According to PennLive.com,  Stein’s petition and her lawyer, Lawrence Otter, contend that

“[A] recount is needed because of what he called a “discontinuity” between pre-election public opinion polls and the actual outcome. Otter also cited problems with the state electronic voting system and the hacking of the Democratic National Committee.

The third way allows for a citizen-initiated recount call.  This is what about 100 citizens from throughout Centre County did on Monday, November 29, 2016. Believing that the state elections law allows citizens five business days to petition the County Elections Office to recount their precincts ballots, people from 32 of the 91 precincts in the county filed notarized affidavits asking for a manual recount.  The law requires that a minimum of three individuals per precinct file their affidavits within five “days” of the initial completion of the counting of the ballots.

Here’s the list of the 32 precincts that were officially accepted:

  1. #1 Bellefonte North
  2. #3 Bellefonte South
  3. #5 Bellefonte West
  4. #16 State College North
  5. #17 State College North East
  6. #20 State College South 2
  7. #21 State College South East
  8. #23 State College SC 2
  9. #32 State College West 2
  10. #35 Unionville Borough
  11. #37 Benner South
  12. #41 College North
  13. #42 College South
  14. #43 College East
  15. #47 Ferguson North 1
  16. #48 Ferguson North 2
  17. #49 Ferguson Northeast 1
  18. #50 Ferguson Northeast 2
  19. #51 Ferguson East
  20. #52 Ferguson West
  21. #55 Halfmoon
  22. #57 Harris West
  23. #59 Huston
  24. #64 Patton North 1
  25. #65 Patton North 2
  26. #66 Patton South 1
  27. #67 Patton South 2
  28. #68 Patton South 3
  29. #88 Ferguson North 3
  30. #89 Ferguson West Central
  31. #90 Halfmoon East Central
  32. #91 Ferguson North Central

Emily Reddy of WPSU Radio came to the Centre County Elections Office on Monday while the petitions were being filed.  Here is her story.

Then on Tuesday, November 30, the Centre County Board of Elections held their certification hearing. Mary Vollero and I spoke at the hearing on behalf of the voters and for both Concerned Voters of Centre County and Vote PA.  These two organizations are the local and statewide voter-integrity advocacy groups.

There were two sessions held on Tuesday by the Board. The first one lasted a little over a half an hour.  Mary spoke first, and I spoke second.  My initial comments during the first session were not videotaped.  But the Centre Daily Times did quote part of my remarks:

“We have a country right now that is up in arms, and we are fighting with each other,” Tosti-Vasey said. “We need to make sure that people respect the elections as they occurred and doing a recount will help in making sure that here in Pennsylvania we understand what happened.”

The Board of Elections agreed that if the petitioners filed their affidavits in a timely fashion, then they had no choice but to halt the certification of the votes and hold a recount. Timely filing, according to the law is within five days after the end of the count.  The decision hinged on what the word “day” in the election law means.  The petitioners had understood from their lawyer that “day” meant business days.  The board’s attorney said it meant consecutive, calendar days.

The count was finalized on November 17.  If you use calendar days, the last day to file was on November 22. Using the petitioners’ definition of “day,” the final day to file was on Monday, November 28 since there were 4 weekend days and the two-day Thanksgiving holiday days intervening.

Listen to what was said.

So when the board realized there were differing legal opinions on the meaning of “day,” they recessed for two hours to have a further discussion with their solicitor.  When they came back, we got the bad news.

Their solicitor recommended that they use the calendar day definition and certify the election. Which they unanimously did.

After they had voted to certify the election, I questioned the count in my particular precinct. I noted that a provisional ballot was counted without the board verifying that this ballot was received from a registered voter.  The Board said I had a legitimate complaint and suggested that I take the issue to the county’s Court of Common Pleas.

After the meeting had ended, we were asked what we would do.  Mary and I said we need to weigh our options. So…

Stay tuned!