Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein has received $2.5 million in donations to push for election recounts in three swing states — Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Stein, who launched her crowdfunding campaign on Wednesday morning, hit her first requested total inside of 24 hours, securing more than $2 million by midnight ET, and reaching $2.5 million by 3AM ET.
Upon reaching the original goal of $2.5 million — the total at which Stein had indicated the Green Party would file for recounts in all three states — the campaign's requested total increased to $4.5 million. Just before it reached its original goal, the Green Party's campaign also changed its wording to specify that rather than being used to file for recounts in all three states, the money raised so far would be used for a proposed recount in Wisconsin only, with another two recounts still needing funding.
During the initial funding push, Stein suggested that the $2.5 million target would only cover the filing fees for the recounts. If they did go ahead, attorney fees would add another $1 million. That hypothetical figure was increased as the campaign started to rack up donations. Notably the legal fees were bumped to $2 to $3 million bringing the total cost of the procedure to some $6 to $7 million.
Stein's proposed recounts have no hope of propelling her or the Green Party into a position of power in the United States; instead, they could assist the Democratic Party, who lost out to the Republicans in the three states in question. If Hillary Clinton were to win Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin in a recount, it would put her ahead of Donald Trump in the electoral college, scoring 278 votes to his revised 260 — more in line with Clinton's lead of more than 2 million in the popular vote.
"Our effort to recount votes in those states is not intended to help Hillary Clinton."
The Green Party, however, says the intention of the recounts is not to help Hillary Clinton, but to serve as "part of an election integrity movement" that attempts to "shine a light on just how untrustworthy the US election system is." That lack of trust has deepened recently, too, as technology has theoretically made it possible for nefarious forces to quietly tweak voting results.
Elections could be influenced by hackers, malware, and other electronic tampering, and US officials aren't necessarily trained or equipped to deal with such problems. Alex Halderman, a computer scientist and voting expert, suggested this week that the Clinton campaign file for a recount as a matter of course, even though the unexpected election results were "probably not" the result of a cyberattack.
Each of the states in the crowdfunded campaign was reportedly chosen because of "statistical anomalies" observed by independent election integrity experts. In Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, Stein says "the data suggests a significant need to verify machine-counted vote totals," prompting Green Party-led filings for recounts. The cost for those filings was initially reflected in the original $2.5 million total, with at least $1.1 million needed for Wisconsin, $500,000 for Pennsylvania, and $600,000 for Michigan.
There's still no guarantee the recounts will take place
In the future, Stein's party calls for "publicly-owned, open source voting equipment," and asks that electoral organizers "deploy it across the nation to ensure high national standards, performance, transparency and accountability; use verifiable paper ballots; and institute mandatory automatic random precinct recounts to ensure a high level of accuracy in election results."
Stein notes that even with the filings, the recounts may not ever take place. "We cannot guarantee a recount will happen in any of these states we are targeting," the page reads, with Stein saying that her party "can only pledge we will demand recounts in those states." A recount may be a painful, lengthy procedure, too, with old voting machines and complicated paper trails difficult to follow.
It's not yet clear whether Stein's party will keep increasing their campaign goals to get their hands on the extra millions needed to actually orchestrate recounts, but if the Kickstarter-esque campaign does bear fruit, it could be the biggest stretch goal payoff of all time.
Update 3:20AM ET, November 24th: Stein has almost doubled the crowdfunding campaign's goal, increasing it from $2.5 million to $4.5 million.