Judge schedules hearing for Green Party's Pa. recount push

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Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein waits to speak at a news conference on Fifth Avenue across the street from Trump Tower. Standing to her left Monday was local activist Cheri Honkala.

The Green Party-backed push for a recount of Pennsylvania's presidential election results will get its day in federal court.

U.S. District Judge Paul S. Diamond on Tuesday ordered a Friday hearing to consider the party's request for a forensic examination of voting machines used across the state and a statewide recount of paper ballots.

The proceeding will take place just five days before the Dec. 13 federal deadline for the state to certify its votes, setting up a tight window for the examination should the judge allow it to proceed.

"This is a step toward ensuring that voters of this state know their voices are heard," said Ilann Maazel, a lawyer for former Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein. "We hope the court grants this injunction immediately, to allow the timely completion of this effort."

Stein has spearheaded the recount effort in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, Rust Belt states that provided crucial and narrow victories to President-elect Donald Trump on his march to the White House.

Her attorneys have argued that the electronic voting machines used in Pennsylvania are highly susceptible to computer hacking but have offered no evidence to suggest that any manipulation occurred during the Nov. 8 vote.

Instead, they point to reports of hacking attempts on voting system in other states such as Arizona and Illinois and the theft and publication of emails from top-ranking officials at the Democratic National Committee this year.

The Republican Party and Trump, who won Pennsylvania by about 44,000 votes, have strongly opposed the recount push.

In a filing Monday, they argued that Stein's claims are groundless and that any delay in certifying the vote in Pennsylvania could interfere with the Electoral College's casting of ballots Dec. 19 and Trump's inauguration in January.

In addition to its efforts in federal court, Stein's legal team has urged voters in Pennsylvania precincts to submit petitions to their county election boards asking for localized recounts - efforts that have so far met with mixed results.

A Bucks County judge dismissed petitions in that county for a recount Tuesday, as did a Montgomery County judge last week.

Philadelphia election officials recounted votes in 75 of Philadelphia's 1,686 voting divisions Monday. Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton picked up five additional votes; the totals for Trump did not change. A similar effort in Allegheny County also did not affect vote totals.

Stein's lawyers contend that those retabulations are not enough and only confirm that the electronic voting machines calculated the number of ballots cast correctly, not whether someone was manipulating those ballots from afar.

Philadelphia's elections commissioners rejected a request last week from Stein's legal team for a more thorough forensic audit of how city voting machines worked, a decision her lawyers challenged Tuesday in state court.

They repeated their request for access to the computer code used in the city's central voting system over objections from city lawyers and the Pennsylvania Republican Party.

"There is no evidence to suggest that Philadelphia's elections were anything but secure," Deputy City Solicitor Benjamin Field said.

Common Pleas Judge Abbe Fletman is expected to rule on Stein's request sometime this week.

jroebuck@phillynews.com 215-925-2649 @jeremyrroebuck

Staff writer Justine McDaniel contributed to this article.