- Associated Press - Friday, December 2, 2016

A Green Party-backed effort to force a statewide recount of the Nov. 8 presidential vote in Pennsylvania is heading to court as counties worked Friday to settle up their final vote tallies.

The court case is part of an effort spearheaded by Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein to force recounts in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, three states with a history of backing Democrats for president that were narrowly and unexpectedly won by Republican Donald Trump over Democrat Hillary Clinton.

A recount began Thursday in Wisconsin, while a recount could begin next week in Michigan.

Here’s the latest in Pennsylvania:

COURT CASE

A Monday court hearing in Harrisburg will focus on a request by lawyers for the state Republican Party and Trump to dismiss the Green Party’s recount bid. Lawyers for the sides also must argue whether the court has jurisdiction and whether there’s evidence to back up the claim that Trump’s victory in Pennsylvania was illegal.

Stein has said the purpose of a recount is to ensure “our votes are safe and secure,” considering hackers’ probing of election targets in other states and hackers’ accessing of the emails of the Democratic National Committee and several Clinton staffers. U.S. security officials have said they believe Russian hackers orchestrated the email hacks, something Russia has denied.

Stein’s lawyers have offered no evidence of hacking in Pennsylvania’s election, and have sought unsuccessfully in recent days to get various counties to allow a forensic examination of their election system software.

GOP lawyers argue there is no evidence or even an allegation that tampering with the state’s voting systems occurred. Further, Pennsylvania law does not allow a court-ordered recount, they say.

The case threatens Pennsylvania’s ability to certify its presidential electors by the Dec. 13 federal deadline, Republican lawyers argue.

MARGIN OF VICTORY

Trump’s margin of victory in Pennsylvania is shrinking as more counties finish counting overseas ballots and settle provisional ballot challenges. Efforts by Green Party-backed voters to seek precinct-level recounts also have delayed some county results. An updated count Friday by state election officials showed Trump’s lead shrinking to 49,000 from 71,000 over Clinton.

That puts Trump’s lead at 0.8 percent, down from over 1 percent, out of 6 million votes cast. That is still shy of Pennsylvania’s 0.5 percent trigger for an automatic statewide recount. Stein drew less than 1 percent of the votes cast.

Final counts are outstanding in some counties, including heavily populated Allegheny County.

Douglas Hill, executive director of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania, said there are not enough uncounted votes to change the outcome of the presidential election in Pennsylvania. Almost all the counties are accounted for, he said.

The state’s top elections official, Secretary of State Pedro Cortes, a Democrat, has said there was no evidence of any sort of cyberattacks or irregularities in the election. Any recount would change few votes, Cortes predicted.

___

Follow Marc Levy on Twitter at www.twitter.com/timelywriter. His work can be found at https://bigstory.ap.org/author/marc-levy.


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