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UW-Milwaukee hosting voting justice conference

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Recount doesn’t change outcome in Wisconsin

Presidential election recount efforts came to an end on Dec. 12 in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, with both states certifying Republican Donald Trump as the winner.

Trump’s victory in Wisconsin was reaffirmed following a statewide vote recount that showed him defeating Democrat Hillary Clinton by nearly 23,000 votes.

Meanwhile, a federal judge rejected of a Green Party-backed request for a presidential recount in Pennsylvania that complained the state’s reliance on aging electronic voting machines made it vulnerable to hacking.

Green Party candidate Jill Stein successfully requested and paid for the Wisconsin recount while her attempts for similar statewide recounts in Pennsylvania and Michigan were blocked by the courts.

Stein got only about 1 percent of the vote in each of the three states, which Trump narrowly won over Clinton.

Stein argued that voting machines in all three states were susceptible to hacking. All three states were crucial to Trump’s victory, having last voted for a Republican for president in the 1980s.

The numbers barely budged in Wisconsin after nearly 3 million votes were recounted. Trump picked up 131 votes and won by 22,748 votes. The final results changed just 0.06 percent.

Stein said she was disappointed not all Wisconsin counties did hand recounts, although most did. She said the goal of the recount was never to change the outcome but to validate the vote and restore confidence in the system.

“The recount in Wisconsin raised a number of important election integrity issues that bear further assessment and serious action to ensure we have integrity and confidence in our electoral system,” she said, without naming what they were.

Wisconsin Elections Commission Chairman Mark Thomsen said before certifying the recount results there was no evidence of a hack.

In Pennsylvania, state officials certified the results of the election in the hours following the decision by U.S. District Judge Paul S. Diamond.

Trump beat Clinton in the state by about 44,000 votes out of 6 million cast, or less than 1 percent, according to the final tally after weeks of counting provisional and overseas ballots. Green Party voters had petitioned some counties to do partial recounts, affecting few votes, county officials said.

Diamond said there were at least six grounds that required him to reject the Green Party’s lawsuit, which had been opposed by Trump, the Pennsylvania Republican Party and the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office.

Suspicion of a hacked Pennsylvania election “borders on the irrational” while granting the Green Party’s recount bid could “ensure that no Pennsylvania vote counts” given Tuesday’s federal deadline to certify the vote for the Electoral College, wrote Diamond, an appointee of Republican former President George W. Bush.

“Most importantly, there is no credible evidence that any ‘hack’ occurred, and compelling evidence that Pennsylvania’s voting system was not in any way compromised,” Diamond wrote.

He said the lawsuit suffered from a lack of standing, potentially the lack of federal jurisdiction and an “unexplained, highly prejudicial” wait before filing last week’s lawsuit, four weeks after the Nov. 8 election.

The decision was the Green Party’s latest roadblock in Pennsylvania after hitting numerous walls in county and state courts. Green Party-backed lawyers argue it was possible that computer hackers changed the election outcome and that Pennsylvania’s heavy use of paperless machines makes it a prime target. Stein also contended Pennsylvania has erected unconstitutional barriers to voters seeking a recount.

A lawyer for the Green Party members said they were disappointed and unable to immediately say whether they would appeal.

“But one thing is clear,” said the lawyer, Ilann Maazel. “The Pennsylvania election system is not fair to voters and voters don’t know if their votes counted, and that’s a very large problem.”

A federal judge halted Michigan’s recount last week after three days. Trump won Michigan by fewer than 11,000 votes out of nearly 4.8 million votes cast

Recount halted in Michigan, Wisconsin’s nears completion

A recount of Michigan’s presidential votes that began on Monday ended last night after a federal judge set aside his earlier ruling that set the recount in motion.

U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith acted after the state appeals court said Green Party candidate Jill Stein, who requested the recount, doesn’t qualify as an “aggrieved” candidate under Michigan law.

Donald Trump won Michigan by a razor-thin margin of 10,700 votes out of about 4.8 million ballots cast.  More than 20 counties so far were recounting ballots, and more were scheduled to begin today.

Goldsmith said Stein raised serious issues about the integrity of Michigan’s election system. But he said she offered “speculative claims” and “not actual injury.”

No one expected the recounts requested by Stein in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania to change the outcome of the election, but Goldsmith’s ruling effectively ended any chance of that happening.

Klein said in the beginning that the recount was not intended to help Clinton. “These recounts are part of an election integrity movement to attempt to shine a light on just how untrustworthy the U.S. election system is,” she posted on a website to raise money for the effort.

Meanwhile, the Wisconsin Elections Commission reported yesterday that the recount here is more than 70 percent complete, with more than 2.1 million votes out of the nearly 3 million cast already recounted. So far, Clinton has gained just 82 votes on Trump, who won the state by more than 22,000 votes.

The last statewide recount was of the Supreme Court election in 2011.

The Pennsylvania recount request remains up in the air. U.S. District Judge Paul Diamond has scheduled a hearing on the issue for Friday. Republican leaders have joined Trump in opposing it, saying it threatens Pennsylvania’s ability to certify its election before the Dec. 13 federal deadline.

But vote totals already have changed in Pennsylvania since Election Day. An update on Tuesday that included provisional ballots that had not been counted previously showed Trump’s lead over Clinton had shrunk from 71,000 to about 44,000 out of more than 6 million votes cast.

That margin is barely shy of Pennsylvania’s 0.5 percent trigger for an automatic statewide recount.

Although Stein and the Green Party pushed for the recounts, Clinton — under pressure from her supporters — joined the effort. Clinton won the popular vote by a substantial 2.7-million vote margin.

Also fueling concern about the integrity of the Nov. 8 election was an alarming series of hacks targeting Democratic Party and Clinton campaign emails throughout the last weeks of the election.

Wikileaks turned over what it considered to be damaging emails to mainstream media, which shared them with the public. Federal officials pinned blame for the hacking on Russia, whose leaders have a cozy relationship with Trump. Russia previously tried to interfere with the outcome of an election in Ukraine.

There was also a complicated Russian-backed system exploiting social media to spread outrageous lies about Clinton. The stories were sometimes published by major news outlets.

Under current law, election officials in most states don’t have systems for checking whether results were changed using malware.







Pennsylvania recount halted, Trump aggressively seeks to stop others too

Voters backed by the Green Party have dropped their court case seeking to force a statewide recount of votes cast in Pennsylvania’s Nov. 8 presidential election.

The state, which has voted Democratic in the last six elections, gave Republican Donald Trump a one percent margin of victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton. About 49,000 more voters chose Trump out of the more than six million ballots cast in the state.

That’s a victory margin of .8 percent. A margin of less than .5 percent would have automatically triggered a recount under Pennsylvania law.

The decision to drop the lawsuit in Pennsylvania came today, just two days before a court hearing was scheduled in the case. The Associated Press reported that the Green Party-backed voters who filed the case said they “are regular citizens of ordinary means” and cannot afford the $1 million bond ordered to be paid to the court by 5 p.m. Monday.

Despite dropping the court case, Green Party-backed efforts to force recounts and analyze election software in scattered precincts were continuing.

In addition to Pennsylvania, Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein also has spearheaded efforts to force recounts in Michigan and Wisconsin, where one is already underway. All three states share a history of backing Democrats for president, but they were narrowly and unexpectedly won by Trump.

At the heart of concerns by Stein and others is whether Russian hacktivists flipped votes in electronic voting machines in the three states. Trump’s tiny margin of victory in those states proved decisive in handing him the White House.

Pennsylvania’s top elections official Secretary of State Pedro Cortes, a Democrat, has said there’s no evidence of cyberattacks or irregularities in the election. He predicted that a recount would change few votes.

Stein want so ensure ‘our votes are safe and secure

But Stein had said the purpose of the recount effort is to ensure “our votes are safe and secure,” considering hackers’ probing of election targets in other states and hackers’ accessing of the emails of the Democratic National Committee and several Clinton staffers. U.S. security officials have said they believe Russian hackers orchestrated the email hacks, something Russia has denied.

In the weeks leading up to the election, hackers and social media trolls backed by the Russian government worked hard to discredit Clinton. Embarrassing messages hacked from the email account of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta were disseminated by Wikileaks and turned into headlines by virtually all of the nation’s mainstream media.

Fake stories spread damaging falsehoods about Clinton all over Facebook and other social media. One widely distributed post claimed that Pope Francis was supporting Trump. Teenagers in the Balkans produced the majority of the lies, some of which were picked up by news media as facts. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has vowed to address the problem, but critics complain that the steps he’s considering are vague and ineffective.

Hackers ignored Trump, who has repeatedly praised Russia’s Vladimir Putin — a virtual dictator of the nation who controls the media and jails or kills dissenters.

Republicans eager to halt recounts

Republicans are leaving no stone unturned in their effort to halt the recount underway in Wisconsin and the one pending in Michigan.

Pro-Trump Republicans in Wisconsin on Dec. 2 filed filed a lawsuit to halt the recount underway in the state. But a federal court rejected the request their request for a temporary restraining order to stop the count, saying there’s no harm in allowing it to continue.

U.S. District Judge James Peterson scheduled a hearing for Dec. 9 on the underlying laws in the case.

Trump and his backers also filed suit to halt plans in Michigan to begin a recount there next week. Trump’s victory in Michigan was only 10,700 votes.

Michigan’s elections board is deadlocked on the request to prevent a recount, which means it will start next week unless the courts intervene.

Two Republicans voted Dec. 2 to prevent the recount, while two Democrats said it should proceed. Republican Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette asked the state Supreme Court on to intervene and stop the recount.

That motion is pending.


Clinton campaign joins recount efforts, starting in Wisconsin

Hillary Cinton’s campaign on Saturday announced that it would participate in a Wisconsin recount initiated by Green Party nominee Jill Stein in Wisconsin.

The campaign also said it would participate in recounts initiated by Green in Michigan and Pennsylvania.

But Clinton campaign counsel Marc Elias said the campaign’s own investigation has not uncovered any evidence of hacking of voting systems.

For days, activists had been pressuring Clinton to join the effort, in part because she won the popular vote by a significant margin of at least 2 million votes more than Republican vote. Also at issue is whether Russian government hackers had tampered with electronic voting equipment.

The Clinton campaign’s announcement came just a day after the Wisconsin Elections Commission accepted a request from Stein for a recount in the state.

Stein’s campaign has raised more than $4.5 million online to cover the costs of recounts in all three swing states that Clinton lost by razor-thin margins.

“The commission is preparing to move forward with a statewide recount of votes for president of the United States, as requested by these candidates,” WEC Administrator Michael Haas announced.

He continued, “We have assembled an internal team to direct the recount, we have been in close consultation with our county clerk partners, and have arranged for legal representation by the Wisconsin Department of Justice.

“We plan to hold a teleconference meeting for county clerks next week and anticipate the recount will begin late in the week after the Stein campaign has paid the recount fee, which we are still calculating.”

The last statewide recount was of the Supreme Court election in 2011.

The state is working under a federal deadline of Dec. 13 to complete the recount.

As a result, county boards of canvassers may need to work evenings and weekends to meet the deadlines, according to a news release from the department.

Haas said, “The recount process is very detail-oriented, and this deadline will certainly challenge some counties to finish on time.”

A recount is different than an audit and is more rigorous.

More than 100 reporting units across the state were randomly selected for a separate audit of their voting equipment as required by state law, and that process has already begun.

Electronic voting equipment audits determine whether all properly-marked ballots are accurately tabulated by the equipment.

In a recount, all ballots — including those that were originally hand counted — are examined to determine voter intent before being retabulated.

In addition, the county boards of canvassers will examine other documents, including poll lists, written absentee applications, rejected absentee ballots, and provisional ballots before counting the votes.

Haas said the commission’s role is to order the recount, to provide legal guidance to the counties during the recount and to certify the results.

If the candidates disagree with the results of the recount, the law gives them the right to appeal in circuit court within five business days after the recount is completed.

The circuit court is where issues are resolved that may be discovered during the recount but are not resolved to the satisfaction of the candidates.

“Wisconsin has the most decentralized election system in the United States,” Haas said in his statement.

The Clinton campaign has yet to issue a statement on the recounts. Klein’s website said the recount is “not intended to help Hillary Clinton.”

“These recounts are part of an election integrity movement to attempt to shine a light on just how untrustworthy the U.S. election system is,” according to the website.

Pollster Nate Silver and other experts don’t expect the recounts to change the results of the election.

Throughout the last weeks of the election, hackers — believed by experts to have been Russians — hacked the email of John Podesta and broadcast damning messages from inside the Clinton campaign on a daily basis. Mainstream media picked up the stories, which were never verified.

A complicated Russian-backed system exploiting social media also spread damaging lies about Clinton. The false stories were sometimes published by major news outlets.

Russia tried to influence the outcome of an election in Ukraine, and activists fear that the country might have infiltrated computerized U.S. voting machines and thrown the results. In addition to Wisconsin, Stein is asking for recounts in Michigan and Pennsylvania, where results were extremely close and at odds with the vast majority of polls just prior to Election Day.

Under current law, election officials in most states don’t have systems for checking whether results were changed using malware.

Wisconsin law calls for the state to perform a recount at a candidate’s request as long as he or she can pay for it. The state has never performed a presidential recount. Election officials estimate the effort will cost up to $1 million.

Editor’s note: This story will be updated.

What good can be salvaged from the election?

Continue reading What good can be salvaged from the election?

Tennessee mayor introduces gay rights ordinance

The mayor of Knoxville, Tenn., is introducing a measure to ban bias based on sexual orientation and gender identity in city employment.

The ordinance proposed by Mayor Madeline Rogero will get its first reading during a city council meeting April 17 at the Knoxville City County Building.

The Tennessee Equality Project announced Rogero’s decision early April 11, noting that TEP’s PAC studied candidates for mayor last fall and endorsed Rogero.

“Rogero indicated she would support such an ordinance, which won her our endorsement,” TEP said. “Now she is honoring her promise and leading the effort to advance the measure.”

In March, TEP and the Green Party held training workshops on the impact of the proposed measure with leaders of both groups, as well as representatives from city hall, PFLAG, East TN Gay-Straight Alliance and Knoxville Pridefest.

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Gay voters angry at Dems could sway election

Kate Coatar is seriously considering voting for Green Party candidates instead of Democrats, whom she normally supports. James Wyatt won’t cast a ballot at all because he no longer trusts anyone to fight for causes important to him.

If Democratic candidates are counting on long-standing support from gay voters to help stave off big losses on Nov. 2, they could be in for a surprise.

Across the country, activists say gay voters are angry — at the lack of progress on issues from eliminating employment discrimination to uncertainty over serving in the military to the economy — and some are choosing to sit out this election or look for other candidates.

President Barack Obama’s hometown of Chicago, with its large, politically and socially active gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community, offers a snapshot of what some are calling the “enthusiasm gap” between voters who came out strong for Obama and other Democrats in 2008 and re-energized Republican base voters, including tea party enthusiasts who say they are primed to storm the polls.

It didn’t help that the controversy over the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for gays erupted less than two weeks before the election, when a judge overturned it, then Obama’s justice department decided to fight the judge’s decision. On Thursday, the Defense Department declared that “don’t ask, don’t tell” is official policy but set up a new system that could make it tougher to get thrown out of the military for being openly gay.

“It’s all talk and nothing’s happening, and I’m just over it,” said Coatar, 62, a church business manager who said she’s as concerned about health care and homelessness as about gay issues. “I don’t know who to vote for and the election is a week away.”

Wyatt, 35, a maintenance worker at the Center on Halsted, a community center serving Chicago’s GLBT community, said politicians only court gay voters at election time.

“Once they’re elected, they’re not fighting for things like civil unions or same-sex marriage or ending ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ because they’re hot-button issues,” said Wyatt, who usually supports Democrats. “We’re just used as a piggyback for them to get into office. It’s absurd.”

Whether or not that’s the case, Wyatt isn’t the only one who feels that way.

And in places like Cook County, Ill., where the gay population represents about 7 percent of voters, that could mean the difference between victory and defeat in some races, said Rick Garcia, director of public policy for Equality Illinois. One of those races is a much-watched and close battle for Obama’s old Senate seat between Democrat Alexi Giannoulias and Republican Mark Kirk.

“If (candidates) can mobilize the gay community and get them out to vote, it could make all the difference in the world in some of these key races,” said Garcia.

But volunteers who’ve been calling the 18,000 or so members of Equality Illinois to urge them to vote have been getting an earful. Many members say they won’t vote or will vote against incumbents, regardless of their party affiliation or stance on gay issues.

This year’s election is a stark contrast to 2008, when the gay community turned out in droves to elect Obama and help Democrats regain control of Congress.

“People were clamoring and very excited about the change that then-candidate Obama promised America,” Garcia said. “Now I see lethargy at best and disgust at worst.”

He said gains won under Obama, including in fighting housing discrimination, have not filtered out to many in the gay community because “the big issues have not appeared to change at all.”

“But change takes time; sometimes it takes a lot of time. A lot of folks just don’t understand that,” said Garcia. “I am older and more seasoned, but most people are very disturbed with the administration … and they’re the hard ones to get out to vote.

“The message is huge: Don’t take us for granted.”

A message left Friday with the Democratic National Committee seeking comment was not immediately returned.

But many gay organizations are working hard to get voters to the polls, fearing they could face setbacks if Republicans retake control of Congress. Baim said Democrats and Obama still enjoy widespread support in some parts of the gay community, particularly among African-Americans and Latinos, and she believes the majority still will vote.

“People are disappointed but understand that this really is the best hope for significant change over the next several years,” she said. “But at the same time, the anger is very real.”

Robin McGehee, co-founder and director of the national gay-rights organization GetEQUAL calls the mood among gay voters a “disappointment canyon” but said they have no choice but to go to the polls.

She, however, is refusing to donate to or volunteer for any candidate this year. And members of her group are protesting wherever Obama appears on the campaign trail.

“We can’t not take advantage of the right to vote, but that doesn’t mean we can’t vote smartly,” said McGehee, of Fresno, Calif. “If I was a leader in the Democratic Party, I would be worried.

“Either we’re important enough to fight for our equality or we’re worth losing,” she said. “Right now we’re being treated like we’re worth losing.”