Jill Stein: Making Voting System More Credible is the First Step Towards Democratization
The former Green Party presidential candidate says razor-thin margins, unexpected outcomes, and use of unreliable voting machines prompted her to follow through with a campaign promise to stand for election integrity
JAISAL NOOR: I’m Jaisal Noor coming to you from The Real News Network, live on Facebook. U.S. President elect Donald Trump has taken to Twitter again, to blast election recount efforts, while simultaneously claiming voter fraud cost him the popular vote. On Saturday, Hillary Clinton’s legal team agreed to participate in the recount, which was requested by Green Party presidential candidate, Jill Stein.
JILL STEIN: We have a system that basically invites tampering.
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JAISAL NOOR: Clinton leads by more than two million in the popular vote count. The decision prompted Trump to unleash another Twitter tirade, blasting recount efforts as a scam, but while also claiming he won the popular vote if, “You deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.” Election officials in Wisconsin on Monday said a recount of the presidential election between Trump and Clinton would demonstrate the integrity of elections held in that State. As it presently stands, Trump won Wisconsin’s 10 electoral votes on the basis of having received 22,177 more popular votes than Clinton.
MARK THOMSEN: If nothing else, this is going to give us a very good audit. It’s going to reassure Wisconsin voters that we have a fair system, that we’re not counting illegal votes. We’re not counting dead people’s votes and it’s really, really important to know, that in Wisconsin, elections are fair and accurate and conducted by hard-working people, my fellow citizens.
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JAISAL NOOR: Stein is also pushing for recounts in Michigan and Pennsylvania. An effort, she said, is aimed at guaranteeing the integrity of the U.S. voting system. Well, we’re now joined by Dr. Jill Stein live. She was the Green Party presidential candidate. Thanks so much for joining us again.
JILL STEIN: It’s good to be with you, Jaisal.
JAISAL NOOR: So, talk to us about why you have been leading the calls for recounts in three States, Wisconsin, which starts Thursday, as well as Pennsylvania and Michigan?
JILL STEIN: So, you know, this is an election in which people do not have confidence in our voting system, in our political parties, in the candidates, really across the board. Voter confidence and trust in our whole variety of systems is really at rock bottom low. Eighty percent of voters said in a New York Times poll that they were disgusted with the outcome of this election. Throughout the election, whenever I was asked if there was doubt about the credibility and the reliability and the integrity of the vote, would I stand up and file for a recount? I’ve always said, “Yes.” The Green Party has always stood for voter integrity and for election integrity.
So, to me it wasn’t a question of, “Who won?” It was and remains a question of, “Can we have confidence in a voting system where we know these voting machines, which are controlled by private corporations; that are wide-open to hacking, to tampering, to machine error, can we have confidence in these votes?” And I think there are a lot of changes we need to bring back that confidence in our voting and elections system. But this is a time-sensitive opportunity right now to ensure that we have integrity in the votes. And you cannot tell whether or not there has been tampering or problems with the vote, unless you actually count the paper ballots.
JAISAL NOOR: And so, a Judge in Wisconsin rejected your calls for the recounting of paper ballots. It’s going to be done electronically. And I wanted to ask, have you been surprised by the reaction? You’ve raised almost $7 million and even Hillary Clinton’s legal team has signed on to this recount effort. And I want to remind our viewers we are live right now at The Real News and send us your questions. We will ask them to Dr. Stein.
JILL STEIN: So, the judge did not disavow paper ballots and a hand recount. In fact, what he said was that that was the gold standard. What he did say was that the law didn’t allow him to instruct the County Election Departments as to how they should count their votes. But he weighed in that he believed that the hand-counted paper ballot was the most valid and trustworthy way to get that vote. So, you know, we hope to go forward, working with the County Election Commissions to still push for that paper ballot, and you know, hundreds of volunteers are coming out in Wisconsin to conduct this vote and they feel like, you know, they are really pushing for a voting reform here that makes the system worthy of their confidence.
JAISAL NOOR: And so, to be clear, does this have the potential to change the outcome of the election?
JILL STEIN: We don’t expect that and I don’t want to raise expectations or fears that that will happen. All we know is that the three States that were picked and one of them was still an undeclared State, that is Michigan, was not declared until after we had announced the recount in these three States. The reason they were picked is not because of who won, but because they had the red flags that you look for if you want to find something, that is extremely razor-thin margins, an unexpected outcome, and a liability in the voting system.
So, in Wisconsin, the liability is… or among the liabilities, is there’s a voting machine used there, which has been banned from the State of California. And yes, it has a paper trail, but the paper trail unfortunately doesn’t address the vulnerability. There’s a little button on the back. If you know about that button, you can revote. It resets innumerable times. So, it’s very friendly to tampering. So, that’s a major issue, among others in Wisconsin. In Michigan, there’s a sky-high number of blank votes for President and this has happened sometimes. In Toledo, one of the voting, you know, problems that was discovered in a recount in Toledo, Ohio in 2004, was 90,000 votes that did not get counted by that scanner, that vote-counting machine.
So, paper ballot counted through a vote-counting machine that just wasn’t properly calibrated – so 90,000 votes got missed in that one city alone. So, we know that these blank votes, these 80 or 85,000 blank votes in Michigan is…
JAISAL NOOR: And to be clear, that is significant because Trump’s margin was 10,000 votes in Michigan. So, that 70,000 is a significant number.
JILL STEIN: It absolutely is and it’s way higher than they’ve ever had before for blanks in the Presidential race. And then in Pennsylvania, they use entirely, voting machines. That is the touch screens, with no paper trail whatsoever, which is, you know, it basically creates a black box in which anything could be going on and you don’t know, unless you count the votes.
JAISAL NOOR: And so because it’s such a long-shot for this process to change the results of the election, there are some critics of this process and they say it’s a distraction from the more important work of what, as some say, of building a visionary alternative to both his autocracy, in reference to Trump, and Clinton’s third way, Neo Liberalism. That’s, I’m quoting Kate Aronoff in the Guardian. And some people in your own party, the Green Party, like, your Vice-Presidential candidate Ajamu Baraka – they don’t support they don’t support the recount efforts. He told CNN he’s concerned because it would be seen as carrying water for the Democrats. How do you respond to those criticisms?
JILL STEIN: Well, I personally ran for Secretary of State here in Massachusetts in 2008, based on these issues. Throughout the campaign whenever I was asked, would I stand up and carry the water for the voters of the United States who are without confidence in our voting system and in our elections system? You know, my answer to that is that we need a whole agenda of reforms. We need to end the voter I.D. laws and the striking of millions of voters from the voter rolls. We need to end money in politics. We need to open up the debates and the silencing of voices of opposition. We need a rank choice voting system, so we can end voting out of fear. And we need to end the Electoral College. There’s a long list of what we need to do to restore confidence just in our democracy, let alone then fix the other issues that are crashing down around us, from jobs, to wages, to the climate, to the exploding costs of healthcare and a generation locked in debt.
But in order to do all that stuff, we also have to know that our votes are actually being counted, that they’re not being, you know, cast aside by these machines that fail to recognize them, whether by human error, by machine error, whether by tampering, or whether by hacking. You know, if any of this is going to work, we also have to know that the votes work. And this is the only moment that we can actually install credibility and safeguards into our voting system. Because this is otherwise, you know, an issue that people do not pay attention to, except in the wake of a really bitter and divisive election. People have their attention focused on what we can do to fix the system.
So, we’re launching this campaign, not as a be all, end all, but rather as a first step towards taking these other steps in addition, in launching a much broader movement to democratize our elections, to democratize our political system, and to make it work for us.
JAISAL NOOR: And so, another person that’s taken issue with this recount process is of course, President-elect, Donald Trump, and he’s the same person that says there’s massive voter fraud. Millions of people voting against him, but then he’s just sent out a tweet recently which said, “This is a scam for the Green Party to fill up their coffers, asking for impossible recounts and is being joined by the badly defeated and demoralized Democrats.” So, we know Trump says a lot of crazy things, but how do you respond to this criticism, because you have raised some almost $7 million throughout this process?
JILL STEIN: So, first he’s got the voter fraud thing backwards. It’s not that voters are illegally voting. Rather, voters are being unjustly stricken from the voting rolls. So yes, probably millions of voters have been mistreated here. And the injustice is the opposite of what he’s suggesting. Voters are not abusing the system, rather, the system is abusing voters and we need to ensure that every person, every citizen has a constitutional right to vote.
On the question of fundraising, you know, he can have his opinions but he can’t have his own facts. The reality is, when you raise money for a recount it has to go into a dedicated recount fund. And that recount fund can only be spent on the recount. And we are not going to have… I wish we would have money left over, but we are working very hard to ensure that we can cover all the costs. So, it’s just not happening. And you know, it’s the voters here who are being served; it’s not the Democratic Party. We stepped up because nobody else did. After the filing deadline had past, Hillary Clinton or her lawyer said that they were going to support this. Our attorneys have talked to each other and just to make sure they’re not going to get in each other’s way.
But we will be carrying the water on this. It was us who filed. It’s us who are determining the strategy for the case. It’s our lawyers that are working for us. We’re not coordinating with the Clinton campaign in any way. They support this. We think all campaigns should support this. We’ve also reached out, in fact, to the Trump campaign and to the Gary Johnson campaign to say, “This is not about helping one candidate or hurting another. This is about looking in the most likely place where we can find evidence of a problem, if there is a problem here and standing up for the voters who are the ones who are being thrown under the bus in so many ways, including that there are these enormous risks that are being taken with our votes.”
This isn’t like some hypothetical question about what’s being done with our votes. This has been shown in case after case when we actually look, that we find these voting machines are an invitation to tampering, and to errors of all sorts. So, that’s what needs to be fixed. There are a lot of people who stay home and who don’t come out because they say that the system is rigged from the get-go and that the machines are not counting our votes. So, we need to answer that and provide assurance if it’s working. And if it’s not, we need to get it fixed.
JAISAL NOOR: And speaking of fundraisers, The Real News is in the midst of our year-end 500K fundraiser to continue to build our work, covering climate change and other important issues. But the issue of paper ballots, someone just sent in this question on Facebook and we are live on Facebook, so send us your questions. So, someone noted on Facebook that Canada, the entire country of Canada uses paper ballots. They don’t use electronic ballots, electronic voting, because of all the issues that you’ve been describing here.
JILL STEIN: Yes. And we’re saying, you know, that we should get rid of all these electronic voting machines because even when they have a paper trail, the paper is very frail. It’s fragmented. It doesn’t hold up over time and it can’t be recounted. So, you know, we’re saying we need to be voting on pieces of paper. And they can be counted. If they are counted by hand, that is awesome, if they are counted by these counting machines, those machines need to be cross checked. We need an audit and in any case. We need automatic recounts whenever the vote is close.
We shouldn’t have to, you know, raise millions of dollars in order to have the assurance that this voting system is actually working, and we shouldn’t have to jump through the incredible bureaucratic hoops, like in Pennsylvania, there are 9,000 districts. You know, and each district has its own separate process. So, you know, it’s just really rather mind-boggling that we have to go through such extraordinary lengths, in order to have some kind of assurance that our votes are actually being counted with security, with credibility and with integrity. This should be just built into the system from the get-go.
And we hope to really make that point in the course of this campaign so that whatever happens, regardless of what the findings are, the real win here is to move forward with a secure voting system, that we can trust, that then makes it worth engaging and doing all the other work that we have to do in order to, you know, create an America and a world that we can actually survive in.
JAISAL NOOR: And so, we are getting several questions from Facebook, specifically about how this is being funded? And you’ve already addressed this, so some people are asking, “Are taxpayers paying for this?” And we know that it’s been donations. And about those donations, people are asking, “Were there any foreign donations? Would that be legal for this process?” And they’re also asking you to address recent propaganda that George Soros is funding this recount for you as well.
JILL STEIN: Well, so it’s been 140,000 approximately, small donors with an average donation of $45. One half of one percent have contributed over $1,000. So this makes this a very small donor campaign, when only one half of one percent are contributing a substantial amount of money. You know, $1,000 is a pittance compared to the Democratic and Republican campaigns that have their super packs and their dark money, and their party vehicles that allow them to contribute, you know, like $20,000 per Party but contribute to all the State parties.
You know, so they have all kinds of end runs that provide for huge contributions. No such thing in this campaign. We strictly follow the rules of campaign finance for a campaign. So, that means you could go up to a maximum of $2,700, but there’s hardly anybody who did that, as I said, one half of one percent who contributed over $1,000. So, that’s 99.5% of people under $1,000 and in fact, at an average level of $45. And people who are not citizens of the United States cannot contribute. That’s a general law for, you know, political campaigns as well. You know, and we also use our general rules, our general guidelines that we do not accept money from lobbyists, corporations, or individuals who are the heads of corporations that hire lobbyists. So, it’s a way to ensure that we don’t have money coming in that has a stake in the political process.
JAISAL NOOR: And so, Suzanna from Facebook has a question. Who is responsible, if there is any evidence, for manipulating voter registration, if you can address that?
JILL STEIN: Okay, so what we know is that voters are being stricken from the voting rolls. And there are, you know, places where this is more documented than others but a huge problem is this new system called, “Interstate Crosscheck” that it takes place through, I believe, the Secretary of State’s offices. And it looks for common last names and common first names and if there are two people with the same common first and last name, it will strike you from the voting rolls. So, it’s a way to basically eliminate people from the voting rolls and they target last names that are particularly from communities of color, or Latinos.
So, this is a big problem and that kind of system should not be allowed. Secretaries of State should not be participating in that and this is why we need a broad movement for protecting the right to vote. That’s largely where it takes place. Then there are also, you know, systems we don’t exactly have a handle on, but for example, in Brooklyn, New York, in the Democratic Primary, suddenly there were thousands of people who thought they were registered, as Democrats and suddenly they weren’t. That’s the kind of election that should have automatically been recounted. And had I been… had standing in that election, I would have called for a recount. If we are able to move forward with the protections that we’re calling for, those kinds of red flags would be picked up on by the automatic audits and by automatic recounts where the vote is close.
So, again, it illustrates why it is that we need to have a voting system that we can have confidence in. And we need to ensure separately that voters are not being stricken from the rolls.
JAISAL NOOR: All right, Dr. Jill Stein, thank you so much for joining us and please come back on soon. We know you’re really busy with this whole process, but we love to have you continue to update us on this process and how it’s going in those States and beyond. Thank you so much for joining us.
JILL STEIN: And you can go to Jill2016.com/recount to stay up-to-date and to participate, if you would like to do that. Thanks so much.
JAISAL NOOR: And for our viewers, thank you so much for watching and sending us all your questions. Again, we are in the midst of our year-end 500 K fundraiser. Donate at The Real News Network.com to contribute to our ongoing climate change coverage, our coverage from Standing Rock and the critical issues, like covering this election and Donald Trump’s presidency the next four years. Thank you so much for joining us.