PHILADELPHIA — A federal judge is ordering a hearing on a Green Party-backed bid to force a recount of Pennsylvania’s presidential election result. Green Party lawyers also want permission to examine election system computers for any evidence of hacking.
U.S. District Judge Paul Diamond scheduled the hearing for Friday.
Calling Pennsylvania’s election system “a national disgrace,” Green Party-backed lawyers asked Diamond on Monday to order a recount of the state’s Nov. 8 presidential election result, won by Republican Donald Trump.
A federal lawsuit filed in Philadelphia called for a recount and a forensic examination of the aging electronic voting machines used in most Pennsylvania counties, saying both are necessary to determine whether the election results were manipulated by hackers.
The lawsuit said Pennsylvania’s paperless voting machines make it a prime target for hacking, citing the election-season email hacking of the Democratic National Committee and attempts to breach election systems in other states.
“The Pennsylvania election system is a national disgrace. 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,” the lawsuit said.
Officials in Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration have said there is no evidence hackers manipulated the vote.
An updated count Monday by state election officials showed Trump’s lead shrinking to 47,750 over Clinton, out of 6 million votes cast, as more counties finished counting overseas ballots and settling provisional ballot challenges. That is still shy of Pennsylvania’s 0.5 percent trigger for an automatic statewide recount. Stein drew less than 1 percent of the votes cast.
Final counts are outstanding in some counties, but there are not enough uncounted votes to change the outcome, officials said.
The lawsuit filed Monday names state elections officials and said Pennsylvania’s barriers to a recount violate voters’ constitutional rights. It also asked the federal courts to give the plaintiffs “reasonable time to do a thorough, forensic examination” of a sampling of state voting systems.
The Pennsylvania Department of State declined to comment on Stein’s lawsuit, while lawyers for Trump and the Pennsylvania Republican Party sought to intervene. They warned that the Dec. 13 federal deadline for Pennsylvania to certify its election is approaching, and missing it could delay the Dec. 19 Electoral College vote and the inauguration of Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence. And that would “prevent them from fulfilling their constitutional duties to the American people,” their lawyers said.
Stein attorney Ilann Maazel was unable to offer evidence Pennsylvania’s election had been hacked. But he contended the state’s elections system is so insecure that a forensic examination of a sampling of the machines is the only way to know for sure that votes weren’t altered.
“There are millions of voters out there who have worries, and they have good reason to be worried. So let’s get to the bottom of this,” Maazel said.
On Saturday, Green Party-backed voters dropped a state court lawsuit that had sought to force a statewide recount of the presidential election, citing the court’s order that they post a $1 million bond. But Green Party-backed efforts to force recounts and analyze election software in individual precincts continued.
Some poll workers and voting activists have long complained the electronic machines are prone to crashing, vulnerable to hacking and lack a paper backup.
The machines store votes electronically and can produce a paper record of the overall tally after polls close. But there is no way for individual voters to confirm their choices were recorded accurately in the first place.
Pennsylvania is one of 14 states that make exclusive or partial use of electronic voting machines without a paper backup. Of 23,725 machines certified for use statewide, 22,123 record votes electronically and leave no paper trail, according to the Department of State.
In 2006, a group of voters sued Pennsylvania to bar the use of paperless electronic voting machines, contending they were unreliable, lacked adequate safeguards against vote tampering and violated a state law requiring “a permanent physical record” of each vote.
Nearly a decade later, in 2015, the state Supreme Court dismissed the suit, saying the plaintiffs had not shown that so-called “direct-recording electronic” machines are more susceptible to fraud or tampering than other kinds of voting systems.
Of the voters’ complaint about the machines’ lack of paper backup, the court raised the possibility electronic machines that issue voter receipts might run afoul of the state constitution’s ballot secrecy requirement.