Who started it this time? The behavior of Jill Stein, the Green Party Presidential candidate, who has filed in Wisconsin for a recount of votes cast in the Presidential election, and who plans to pursue recounts in Michigan and Pennsylvania as well, has been frustrating; that of Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party contender, who joined the effort, human but disappointing; and that of Donald Trump, the President-elect, outrageous and destructive. The recount business has not brought out the best in anybody, and in Trump it has brought out the worst: in a series of tweets Sunday night, he alleged that millions of votes were fraudulent, enough to cost him the popular vote. None of this is going to produce any change in the results of the 2016 election. The sole item it may deliver is the one thing the country had been spared with Trump’s victory: a corrosive, conspiracy-minded, and slanderous attack on the integrity of our voting system. This is a critical period in which the shape of Trump’s Administration will be formed, one that presents all sorts of tasks and challenges for his opponents. Democrats have better things to do.
A candidate needs two hundred and seventy Electoral College votes to win the Presidency. Trump has three hundred and six, and Clinton has two hundred and thirty-two. This includes sixteen for Trump from Michigan, where his victory, by ten thousand votes, was certified this afternoon. Wisconsin has ten electoral votes, and he is ahead by about thirty thousand; Pennsylvania has twenty, and the lead is seventy thousand. A recount would have to reverse the results in all three states to get Clinton to two hundred and seventy. And, as fivethirtyeight.com noted, this has never happened in cases where the margins are as large as those in Wisconsin or Pennsylvania; even Michigan would be at the edge of past experience. (It is worth noting that Jill Stein won enough votes in Michigan and Wisconsin to account for Clinton’s losses there.) Stein’s Wisconsin application lists a number of reasons for a recount, most of which are paraphrases of a single thought: the Russians might, just might, have fixed the election—after all, they hacked John Podesta’s e-mail.