At 10 this morning, Allegheny County’s Elections Division will recanvass voting machines from 52 districts.
That’s happening because at least three voters in each of those precincts signed an affidavit seeking a recount or recanvass of votes. County residents began filing paperwork on Nov. 28, less than a week after Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein announced she was raising money for recounts in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.
The recounts, Stein has said, aren’t about changing the outcome of the election. Rather, they’re necessary to ensure the integrity of the voting process in the face of concerns from security and computer science experts about hacking or manipulation.
That today’s recanvassing would even happen wasn’t guaranteed.
Last week, state and county Republicans filed an appeal seeking to stop the recanvass, claiming voters needed to file a recount request in Common Pleas court — not to the county — after Nov. 23.
But, without explaining his reasoning, Judge Joseph James ordered that the recanvass could happen today.
What will happen
The recanvass will involve Elections Division staff reconciling election-night results on printouts against results stored on internal flash cards in the machines.
Much of Pennsylvania uses direct recording electronic machines for voting. These machines don’t leave a paper trail with votes that can be recounted by hand.
When voting is over, Elections Division staff does, however, print a paper tape that “shows the total number of votes for each candidate,” University of Michigan computer science professor J. Alex Halderman explained in a lecture about the machines. The printout “doesn’t show any record of each individual vote.”
New York magazine publicized Halderman’s concerns about election integrity shortly before Stein called for the recounts. In a post on Medium, Halderman wrote:
The only way to know whether a cyberattack changed the result is to closely examine the available physical evidence — paper ballots and voting equipment in critical states like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, nobody is ever going to examine that evidence unless candidates in those states act now, in the next several days, to petition for recounts.
An affidavit from Halderman was cited and attached to each of the affidavits filed by voters in Allegheny County.
Allegheny County Elections Division Manager Mark Wolosik testified Friday that all of the machines from each of the 52 districts will be recanvassed. He estimated that the recanvass would take two hours.
The recanvass is limited to the Senate and presidential races and involves machines from a tiny fraction of the county’s 1,322 districts. You can see the 52 districts involved on the map below.
What won’t happen
In addition to requesting a recount or recanvass of votes through their affidavits, voters requested a forensic analysis of voting machines.
“I request that the county board not just recanvass the votes cast on the DRE machines, but do a forensic analysis of the software and media inside the machines, to determine whether the machines have been hacked or tampered with,” the affidavits read. “As the Halderman affidavit makes clear, merely recanvassing the votes on the machines will not detect whether the machines have been compromised.”
That will not happen today, Wolosik testified Friday.
The county audited 20 random machines about two months before the election, Wolosik said. There was no evidence of tampering or hacking. The county also conducts post-election audits.
Halderman wrote on Medium that Pennsylvania’s post-elections audits “are not risk-limiting” and “might not detect an outcome-changing error.”
On Friday, an attorney for Stein attempted to enter into the record an affidavit from Duncan A. Buell, a professor of computer science and engineering at the University of South Carolina who’s studied electronic voting machines. Judge James didn’t allow that, as it wasn’t relevant to the recanvass.
Despite dropping a suit in state court, Stein is still seeking a statewide recount in Pennsylvania. An attorney for Stein said there are plans to take the suit to federal court, which will be outlined during a 10 a.m. press conference in front of Trump Tower in Manhattan.
Her team will also hold a press conference at noon in Harrisburg. “Here’s a thought: Let’s turn the press conference into a rally! Come out and make your voice heard,” per an email from Stein’s camp.