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Simple processing errors by the voting machines cannot be ruled out, one security expert said. (Photo: s.e. smith/flickr/cc)

Security Experts Back Up Jill Stein's Demand for Manual Recount

'To determine whether the reported winner actually won requires verifying the results as accurately as possible, which in turn requires manually examining the underlying paper records'

Nadia Prupis, staff writer

Security experts on Monday testified in support of Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein, who is spearheading a by-hand election recount initiative in Wisconsin.

Unless a judge rules in her favor, the state will likely allow its 72 counties to decide whether they want to conduct the process manually or by machine. On Monday, a group of academics and other specialists agreed with Stein's argument that an automated recount would risk an incorrect tally. President-elect Donald Trump won Wisconsin 47.9 percent to Democratic rival Hillary Clinton's 46.9 percent—a margin of just over 22,000 votes.

A manual count would be the only way to ensure that there had been no hacking, the experts said.

"It is not possible to determine with certainty the absence of malicious software hiding within what might appear to be many thousands of lines of legitimate software code," Poorvi Vora, a professor at George Washington University, wrote in an affidavit (pdf) on Monday.

In another affidavit, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) professor Ronald Rivest quoted (pdf) the famous proverb, "Trust, but verify."

"We have learned the hard way that almost any computer system can be broken into by a sufficiently determined, skillful, and persistent adversary," he said.

And professor Philip Stark of the University of California at Berkeley noted (pdf) that Wisconsin should not rule out simple software problems with the ballot scanning machines.

"The amount of error required to alter the outcome can easily be less than the error that an optical scan system makes in inferring and tabulating voter intent from the ballots or other paper record," he wrote. "For instance, the software may miss a light or incomplete mark, interpreting it as an undervote, whereas a human being inspecting the paper record would see the voter's intent clearly."

"To determine whether the reported winner actually won requires verifying the results as accurately as possible, which in turn requires manually examining the underlying paper records," he said.

Stein is also pushing for election recounts in Michigan and Pennsylvania. Although the deadline to request a per-precinct recount reportedly passed on November 21, Stein's campaign sued Pennsylvania on Monday to initiate a statewide recount. The campaign will also request a manual recount in Michigan on Wednesday, the last day to do so. Michigan certified Trump as its winner on Monday.

By Monday, Stein had raised nearly $7 million for the effort—although she tweeted on Tuesday that Wisconsin would charge $3.5 million for a recount, "an outrageous increase from the initial estimate of $1.1M."

"Americans deserve a voting system we can trust," Stein said. "After a presidential election tarnished by the use of outdated and unreliable machines and accusations of irregularities and hacks, people of all political persuasions are asking if our election results are reliable. We must recount the votes so we can build trust in our election system. We need to verify the vote in this and every election so that Americans of all parties can be sure we have a fair, secure, and accurate voting system."

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