Jill Stein seems to be trying her hand at gaslighting.
In a conference call with journalists on Tuesday, the Green Party presidential candidate tried to recast the reasons she and her party launched a crowdfunding effort to recount votes in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan. The effort largely relied on vague claims that the election results in those states may not be as they appear.
After a campaign full of nonstop talk about hacking and the election of a historically disliked candidate, it wasn’t difficult to get people to throw money in a hat.
“The recount campaign was premised on the notion that we deserve a voting system we can trust,” Stein said during a call with journalists on Tuesday.
Maybe that’s true in the broadest sense, but that’s not how Stein framed the recount as she was raising millions of dollars to launch it.
If you listened to her as the effort took off, you could probably be forgiven for thinking there was a real chance the results in these states might be overturned.
According to Stein and her party, they wanted a recount “after seeing compelling evidence of voting anomalies.” Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, according to the campaign, showed “significant discrepancies in vote totals.” As evidence, the party offered only an unspecified “data.”
It is always possible that the Stein campaign is privy to information the public is not, but the recount effort began shortly after the publication of a New York Magazine article that offered briefly compelling evidence that voting machines in Wisconsin had perhaps been hacked, the totals adjusted to benefit President-elect Donald Trump.
That evidence was quickly debunked by polling experts, several of whom seemed perplexed that the notion had gained any traction at all. And yet the Green Party’s crowdfunding effort was a wild success, generating millions of dollars and allowing Stein’s name to float around in post-election headlines for far longer than she had enjoyed any attention before voters had cast their ballots.
The result of the recount was not much. Despite claiming to raise $7.33 million from around 161,000 donors, the party’s efforts in Michigan and Pennsylvania hardly got off the ground, and the effort in Wisconsin changed the end result ever-so-slightly in favor of Trump. Stein says she plans to donate whatever money remains to the voting rights and election reform organizations of the donors’ collective choice.
So, now that Stein and company have turned up little hard evidence of the “questionable results” she alleged before the recount began, she and other Green Party officials devoted much of Tuesday’s conference call to well-documented issues such as voter suppression, which, due to a series of voter ID laws passed in recent years, coupled with officials unwilling to make polls easily accessible, made it near impossible for many voters to cast ballots in the 2016 election when they would have more easily been able to in 2012.
That is a noble effort by most any measure. But it is not how Stein and her party began gathering cash for a recount.