UC statistics professor says election integrity audits should become standard US practice

Green Party presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein announced Monday that her supporters filed a legal petition to get a recount in Pennsylvania, where President-elect Donald Trump held a lead over Hillary Clinton by about 71,000 votes, or about 1% of the total counted.

It is part of an effort by Dr. Stein to obtain recounts of presidential election ballots in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, three states where Mr. Trump was announced the winner by a small margin.

Stein raised $6.2 million in five days, to cover the expenses and attorney fees. Critics say it is a needless distraction from the certification of Mr. Trump's electoral college victory. Stein says it is imiportant to ensure there was no fraud, tampering, or simple mistakes.

"I think it speaks to how the American people long for a system that it can trust," Stein said, "We have a very small time window in which to get this done, and to get it done quickly. If the system worked, we will know it very soon. That will be extremely reassuring at a time when voter confidence in our government and basic social institutions is at a rock bottom low."

Dr. Stein and Hillary Clinton's campaign both say they do not expect any recounts to change the result of the election, in which Donald Trump won 306 electoral college votes to Clinton's 232.

Clinton won the popular vote nationwide by more than two million ballots, with 64,654,483 total votes (48.2%) for Clinton compared to 62,418,820 (46.5%) for Trump.

On Sunday, President-elect Trump responded to the recount efforts by posting messages on Twitter claiming fraud, but providing no evidence to support his claim.

"In addition to winning the electoral college in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally," Mr. Trump tweeted.

He later posted on Twitter, "Serious voter fraud in Virginia, New Hampshire and California - so why isn't the media reporting on this? Serious bias - big problem!"

Election officials in those states said there is no evidence of voter fraud.

UC Berkeley statistics professor Philip Stark is Assistant Dean of Mathematical and Physical Sciences and serves on the U.S. Election Assistance Commission's Board of Advisors.

He says election audits should be a common practice in every state, putting politics aside in favor of science and sound data.

"I and others have been advocating for evidence-based elections," Professor Stark said.

"I call it this the three "C's" of election integrity. First "C"" is to create a paper trail. The second is to care for that paper trail, and then the third is to use the paper trail to check the electronic outcome," Professor Stark added.

Stark says about 25% of U.S. voters cast electronic ballots without a paper trail. He says audits or recounts of paper ballots would provide a scientific way to dispel rumors or political posturing, and ensure there was no tampering of an election system.

"To check the outcome in every state in this election at 95% confidence would involve looking at something like half a percent of the ballots cast in all," Professor Stark said.

Stark and other scientists have submitted an affidavit in the Stein Wisconsin recount case, in favor of a hand count. They say running ballots through a machine again won't check whether the total matches the paper ballots.

If Stein files a recount request in Michigan by the Wednesday deadline, Mr. Trump will have seven days to launch an objection.