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Hacking fears push US vote recount move

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A move is underway for a recount of the vote totals in the three battleground states of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania in the last United States presidential election. The goal is not to seek to overturn Republican candidate Donald Trump’s narrow win in the three states but to eliminate the possibility that a cyberattack had manipulated the results.

The move is being led by a group of election lawyers and data experts who said Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton may have received fewer than her actual vote count in some counties that used electronic voting machines. Green Party independent candidate Jill Stein has raised the funds needed to pay for the recounts. Clinton’s camp initially said it would not support the move as it might make her look like a sore loser, but it said later it would join in the recount. As may be expected, Trump is totally opposed to any recount.

The US has long been using electronic counting machines in its elections. Several other countries in the world, however, have gone back to manual counting, among them Germany, Switzerland, and Ireland. In 2009, the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany ruled that electronic voting for members of the Bundestag was unconstitutional as it violated the principle that all the essential steps of an election should be open to the possibility of public scrutiny. In electronic voting, nobody sees how the machine reads each ballot. It reports results which no one can verify. The cheating, according to critics, is in the transmission of results and in the canvass. In Germany, the lack of transparency and the resulting public distrust of the system led the Federal Court to reject it.

As the proponents of the proposed recount in the US have stressed, the goal of the exercise is not to overturn the election of President-elect Trump, but to eliminate the possibility – which is widely suspected – that Russian hackers intervened somehow. There have been previous instances of hackers invading the closely guarded records of some American government agencies.

In the last Philippine election, Filipino oppositors had called for a return to manual voting, but they lost out as the government proceeded as scheduled with the use of voting machines in automated elections as provided by law. We will be closely following events in the US as they now look into the possible hacking of voting machines in three states. Should they discover substantial discrepancies, there will be repercussions in the rest of the states of the US and in the rest of the world now using electronic counting machines, including the Philippines.

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