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Defying Trump, Green Party pursues recounts in three U.S. states

By Amy Tennery
| NEW YORK

NEW YORK Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein pressed her case on Monday for recounts of U.S. presidential ballots in three states, and locked horns with President-elect Donald Trump over her motives.

Stein sued Pennsylvania election officials in federal court, demanding a statewide recount. Hours earlier, a federal judge in Michigan ordered a recount to begin there without delay. In Wisconsin, a recount began last week at Stein’s request.

Even if all three recounts move forward, they are extremely unlikely to change the outcome of the Nov. 8 presidential election in which the three historically Democratic states helped to seal a victory for Trump, a Republican.

On Sunday, Trump proclaimed Stein’s effort a failure and questioned her motives, saying on Twitter: “Just a Stein scam to raise money!”

At a news conference on Monday across the street from Trump Tower in Manhattan, Stein said every dollar she raises for the recount is going to a dedicated account for that purpose. She has raised $7.2 million, according to her website.

“We urge Donald Trump to look at the facts, not to make up the facts,” Stein said.

Stein said her recount push in the three “Rust Belt” states was not meant to change the election’s result, but that she and others have concerns about the integrity of voting systems in the three states.

Trump and his supporters have fought to end the recounts by appealing to state officials and filing lawsuits.

“We are here to assure Donald Trump that there is nothing to be afraid of,” Stein said. “If you believe in democracy, if you believe in the credibility of your victory, put down your arms, end your bureaucratic obstruction.”

Some voting machines in Pennsylvania lack a paper trail, making them vulnerable to hacking or other problems, she said.

TRUMP TOWER PROTEST

A few Trump allies protested Stein’s appearance with her supporters at Trump Tower on New York City’s Fifth Avenue, where Trump’s offices and apartment home are located.

“I think the people out here today don’t believe in democracy,” said Jim MacDonald, a 67-year-old actuary from the borough of Queens. He held a sign that read, “Dr Jill is a quack” and said he voted for Trump.

“He’s their president whether they like it or not,” MacDonald said.

Stein took about 1 percent of the popular vote, far behind Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Although Clinton won the national popular vote, she lost to Trump in the Electoral College, the 538-person body chosen state-by-state that actually selects the president.

Trump won a projected 306 electoral votes and is scheduled to be sworn in on Jan. 20. Stein won no Electoral College votes.

DEC. 13 DEADLINE

Federal law requires states to resolve disputes over the appointment of electors by Dec. 13, adding pressure on Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin to wrap up any recounts.

In Wisconsin, the recount has produced only minor shifts due to human error, state officials said on Monday. In one county, Clinton gained 13 votes that were not counted on Election Day because voters used non-standard pens to mark their ballots.

An initial request by Stein for a recount in Pennsylvania failed on Saturday after a state judge ordered her campaign to post a $1 million bond. A federal lawsuit was her next best option, she said.

A spokeswoman for Pennsylvania election officials said they would not comment on pending litigation.

In Michigan, the state laid out a schedule for recounting presidential ballots beginning on Monday after a federal judge ordered a recount to begin at 12 p.m. ET (1700 GMT) and directed that the state complete the process by Dec. 13.

U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith issued the written order early on Monday after a Sunday night hearing in federal court in the Eastern District of Michigan.

Goldsmith ordered that, once started, the recount “must continue until further order of this court.” The state had planned to wait until Wednesday to begin the recount.

In his ruling, Goldsmith wrote that “budgetary concerns are not sufficiently significant to risk the disenfranchisement of Michigan’s nearly 5 million voters.”

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, a Republican, filed a lawsuit on Friday to halt the requested recount in the state, which Trump won with a margin of roughly 10,700 votes.

The Michigan Court of Appeals has scheduled a hearing on Schuette’s suit for Tuesday afternoon.

Although the Clinton campaign did not initiate the recount effort, it says it is participating to make sure the process is fair to all sides.

(Reporting by Amy Tennery; Additional reporting by Chris Michaud; Writing by David Ingram; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Howard Goller)

-Reuters