Update: A federal judge on Monday rejected a motion for a recount, saying "there is no credible evidence that any 'hack' occurred" and that evidence showed Pennsylvania’s voting system "was not in any way compromised."
U.S. District Judge Paul S. Diamond blasted what he called a "prejudicial delay" in seeking a recount, saying it could not be done at this late date without "inexcusably disenfranchising some six million Pennsylvania voters." Read the decision here.
A Philadelphia judge said he will rule Monday on the Green Party-backed petition for a statewide Pennsylvania recount, but signaled that the clock may be running out because the state must certify its election results for the Electoral College vote.
U.S. District Judge Paul S. Diamond announced his plans after a Friday afternoon hearing at which supporters of Green Party nominee Jill Stein continued their bid for the review, citing potential security vulnerabilities in electronic voting machines statewide.
Diamond, however, seemed most concerned with the limited time Stein's lawyers had left him to act, by waiting nearly a month after the election to file their lawsuit. Any court-ordered delay in meeting the Tuesday certification deadline could put Pennsylvania's electoral votes in jeopardy when the Electoral College convenes Dec. 19.
"One could say you sat on your rights for three weeks . . . anticipating a judicial fire drill," Diamond said from the bench. "Here we have a cold, hard deadline that will disenfranchise six million people, and you and your clients waited, making it almost impossible to comply."
Stein lawyer Ilann Maazel insisted that should Diamond grant the request, the evaluation - a sampling from counties statewide - could be completed before the deadline.
"This is the second-closest presidential election in the history of Pennsylvania. The only closer vote was in 1840, when William Henry Harrison beat Martin Van Buren," Maazel said. "Voters don't just have the right to vote. They have the right to ensure their vote was counted."
It was unclear what would happen, or if a full recount would be ordered, if that sampling uncovered any irregularities. But Diamond's decision was shaping up to be a last stand for the effort to challenge the outcome of the election.
Stein, who won less than 1 percent of the state's more than six million votes, is seeking a recount of potentially more than a million paper ballots and a forensic audit of voting machines in six large Pennsylvania counties, including Philadelphia and Allegheny. Her efforts here are part of a broader recount push that also includes Michigan and Wisconsin - also states where President-elect Donald Trump eked out victories over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
"As voters in the U.S., we deserve a voting system that is accurate, secure, and just," Stein said outside the Philadelphia federal courthouse Friday.
The line of people hoping to attend the hearing snaked outside the entrance. Those who managed to grab a seat for the packed, two-hour proceeding heard starkly conflicting testimony and argument from voting machine experts and lawyers.
State election officials maintain there is no sign of any vote manipulation. The Republican Party and Trump, who won Pennsylvania by about 44,000 votes, have derided Stein's efforts as a publicity stunt and a scam meant to interfere with the president-elect's inauguration.
"Their disappointment in that reality is driving this in an effort to delay the certification of the vote," GOP lawyer Lawrence Tabas told the judge.
Maazel conceded that he had no evidence that voting machines here had been hacked, but pointed to irregularities that he believed should raise suspicion - including 4,000 "no votes" registered in Montgomery County, indicating that number showed up to the polls on Election Day only to not cast a ballot for a candidate. He also noted President Obama's decision Friday to order a full review into foreign efforts to influence U.S. elections going back to 2008.
But with no specific incidents to discuss, much of the hearing before Diamond turned into theoretical debate between dueling computer security experts over how easy hacking a voting machine would be.
Michael Shamos, a Carnegie Mellon University professor who has served as a state voting-machine examiner, testified that election officials follow strict security protocols to ensure that the patchwork of devices used by each of Pennsylvania's 67 counties are secure and never connect individual voting machines to the internet.
The chances of a systematic hack, Shamos said, were about as likely as "androids from outer space living among us as human beings."
University of Michigan computer scientist Alex Halderman countered in his testimony for Stein by pointing to recent attacks on voter-registration databases in Arizona and Illinois, and the hacking this year of email accounts of several Democratic National Committee officials.
"We've never seen a presidential election so affected by this," he said. "I think there's a significant possibility that voting machines in Pennsylvania were subject to such an attack."
Even before the hearing, Stein's recount efforts around the state had shown signs of petering out. State judges in Philadelphia and Bucks and Montgomery Counties this week rejected calls for forensic audits of voting machines in those counties. A recount Monday in Allegheny County did not change its vote totals, while a similar effort is underway in Chester County.
Elsewhere, a federal judge halted Michigan's recount after three days, while one in Wisconsin ruled Friday that state's review could continue - though officials there say it is unlikely the election outcome will change.
Maazel declined after Friday's hearing to say whether Stein would seek an appeal should Diamond rule against her next week.
"We'd rather not plan to lose," he said. "We plan to win."