JOHN YANG: Jill Stein, the Green Party’s presidential nominee is preparing to request recounts in key battleground states. In just a day, she’s raised over $4 million dollars through an online fundraising page to support recounts in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
Although Hillary Clinton leads president-elect trump in the popular vote by more than 2 million votes, she trails Mr. Trump by narrow margins in those three states. To discuss the push for recounts, green party presidential nominee doctor Jill Stein joins me now from Camden, Maine. Dr. Stein, welcome.
Let me ask you, will you be filing these requests? I know the deadline is tomorrow in Wisconsin, and then next week in Michigan and Pennsylvania. Will you be filing in all three states?
JILL STEIN, Green Party Presidential Nominee: Yes, we will. The big question was whether the American people supported this enough that they would fund it. All we did was put out the press release, put up a web site and the funding for it in. The American people are looking for a positive step that we can take to ensure that our votes are being counted and that they’re counted accurately.
JOHN YANG: And what’s your goal with this? Do you think you can overturn the election with these recounts?
JILL STEIN: I don’t think that’s likely and this is not done to benefit one candidate at the expense of the other. This is being done because American’s came out of this election, not happy campers. Eighty percent of Americans according to the New York Times poll, felt disgusted this election.
These were two candidates that, you know, largely people were voting out of fear and the question was which one do you trust less — you know, the most disliked and untrusted candidates in our history. I think Americans are looking for a way that we can improve the system.
It’s not just an academic question, but it’s the question of the job, the healthcare we can’t afford and a generation locked in debt, non-academic is very up close and personal and what I have been shocked by is in this holiday weekend when usually people retreat to the pleasures of their families and the wonderful food and all that, you know, we don’t see that happening at all. People are really wanting to jump forward toward creating a political system that we feel like we can have confidence in.
JOHN YANG: As you explain, we are talking to you by Skype and we’re hearing other news organizations trying to reach you. Do you have any in evidence those three states of any irregularities, hacking, any problems in those states other than the narrow margins? Why pick those three states?
JILL STEIN: Because the margins were narrow and if they were hacking, those were the states you would expect to see where the difference is very close and the impact would have been a small, statistical change that would have changed the outcome and just left it with a very minor difference in the votes between the two candidates.
There is not a smoking gun here, but what the election integrity experts tell us and the advocates for verified voting, what they tell us, is that — well in fact, it’s not just them, you know, this is sort of the obvious, the elephant’s in the room. This was an election in which we saw hacking all over the place, we saw hacking into the democratic party database and hacking into voter database in Illinois and Arizona and evidence that it was attempted much more broadly and we also saw hacking into personal accounts.
At the same time, we have a voting system which has been proven to basically be wide open to hackers. That is, we have voting machines in Wisconsin, for example, that have been barred from California, that got actually made illegal in California because they have been proven to be drop-dead simple to go in and reprogram with malicious software.
So what we’re saying — you wouldn’t get into an airplane and wait for it to crash to decide you need quality assurance and a backup system. Our voting system is no less important and we’re basically calling for a system to verify voting. We shouldn’t have to show there’s been a disaster in order to safeguard a very vulnerable voting system.
JOHN YANG: Green Party nominee Jill Stein. Thank you so much for joining us.
JILL STEIN: Thank you so much.
JOHN YANG: To dig deeper into the recount push, I’m joined by David Sanger, national security correspondent for the New York Times, he has been following this story. David, welcome, thanks for coming in on Thanksgiving day.
DAVID SANGER, The New York Times: Thank you. Happy Thanksgiving to you. We’re all given thanks for Gwen’s life.
JOHN YANG: Absolutely, thank you. Where does this talk come from? The sudden talk about recounts in those three states come from?
JOHN YANG: John, I think it comes from the fact as Dr. Stein indicated the popular vote has now risen, it’s over 2 million lead for secretary Clinton, and the margin in the three critical states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania has narrowed and that has prompted people who have been looking at the hacking questions and others to say if we were getting down to such small amounts, do we need to go check because of possibly miscounting but also because to have the risk of hacking.
Now, when you look at Pennsylvania where the margin is still about 70,000 or so, the chances that this would change the result are pretty miniscule but there may be other good reasons for doing it anyway.
JOHN YANG: A group of computer scientists called the Clinton campaign last week to urge them to do this. Do they have any evidence or any proof that something happened in these three states?
DAVID SANGER: They don’t seem to. I think the telling issue here is the Clinton campaign has not asked for a recount and I think that tells you that they don’t believe this would alter the result.
What they do have is looking at the variance between where a number of the pre-election polls were in, of course, as we all know, those were notoriously bad in these cases and where the vote count has come out, and then some of the usual variances that you see just precinct by precinct, and there are always some number of precincts where it looks like there were several more thousand voters who came in or several thousand fewer and it doesn’t match up with the numbers.
It usually comes out in the wash of doing the verification of the vote. But in Wisconsin and Michigan, there are paper backups and that’s the critical thing, digitized as we get, John. Voting is one thing where you sort of want to take a big step back and always have a paper backup. In Pennsylvania, that’s true only in a few parts of the state.
JOHN YANG: Dr. Stein says she doesn’t think this would change the outcome and you have suggested it’s unlikely. So what’s the point of going through this?
DAVID SANGER: One point is every state has a different system and different levels of cyber security. And if there was one big lesson from the 2016 election, apart from the issues between the candidates, is that we are vulnerable to a foreign power to come in and attempting to influence the election and that’s of course what the intelligence agencies were saying about the hacks of the DNC and John Podesta, the chairman of the Clinton campaign’s e-mails.
If that’s the case, we have to all up our game for sanctity of the election system. I think if states understand, that they are going to be required to go back and look at the paper ballots either on a sample or full basis, they will probably invest more in their cyber security if they believe that there is a chance that there could be hacking, they need a better system.
In this particular case, when the issue is this narrow, if they don’t go back and do it, there will be conspiracy theories between now and 30 years from now saying the 2016 election, there was something suspect there. So if they pass up this chance, they will open up to the conspiracy theories having their case even if their case is unfounded.
JOHN YANG: So, is it do it to prove that nothing happened that there was no hacking?
DAVID SANGER: I think it’s do it to be sure there was no hacking and do it to make sure states recognize if they don’t have the best cyber security around which includes understanding what sort of malware can come into the systems and investing in the front end, they probably will have to pay a lot more money at the back end if elections close.
Remember, the way the states are doing this right now, you only do a recount if the two people running are within half a percent or less of each other. For a half of an election, that wouldn’t make sense because any sophisticated hacker is going to know that the state’s cutoff is half of one percent and make sure the margin is slightly larger than that to avoid an automatic recount. So you’ve got to stay one thought out ahead of some very sophisticated hackers.
JOHN YANG: David Sanger of the New York Times. Thanks for joining us.
DAVID SANGER: Thank you.