News Release

Recount Upshot: “Victories” by Mere Pluralities

rcv-1-2-3AP reports: “The presidential recount in Michigan expands Tuesday to its largest county, which includes Detroit, and five other large counties, with the fate of a statewide recount push in Pennsylvania awaiting action in federal court.

“President-elect Donald Trump narrowly defeated Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in both states and Wisconsin, which started its recount last week. The recounts requested by Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein were not expected to change enough votes to overturn the result of the election.”

[Dave Wasserman of the Cook Political Report notes that the votes that Stein got in the three states currently exceed Trump’s margin of victory. In none of the three states did Trump get an actual majority of votes cast. For example, in Michigan, it’s Trump 47.5, Clinton 47.2, Johnson 3.5 and Stein 1 percent.]

ROB RICHIE, rr [at] fairvote.org, @Rob_Richie
Richie is executive director of FairVote. He just wrote the piece “Hacking America’s Antiquated Elections” for Cato Unbound. He said today: “FairVote’s review of all statewide recounts since 2000 shows that this year’s presidential election recounts won’t change the outcome, absent discovery of election theft involving organized voter fraud.

“But increased scrutiny to the results highlights a huge problem we easily could fix by state law: recounting the ballots still won’t allow us to know how backers of Jill Stein, Gary Johnson and other candidates would have voted if able to indicate their backup preference between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

“In fact, no candidate won a majority of the popular vote in 14 states. Stein’s vote totals alone were greater than the winning margin in the three states where she’s seeking recounts — Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — while Johnson’s vote totals were greater than the winning margin in an additional seven states. (Arizona, Colorado, Maine, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, and New Mexico.) [See: USelectionatlas.org/RESULTS and Dave Wasserman spreadsheet.]

“Most presidential elections around the world use runoff elections, as done this month in Louisiana’s Senate race, and Stein and Johnson support an approach that states could adopt by statute before 2020. … Ranked choice voting liberates voters to support the candidates they like without inadvertently helping to elect the candidate they like the least. It gives voters more voice by allowing them to rank candidates in order of choice, and those rankings can simulate an ‘instant runoff.'”

MICHELLE WHITTAKER, mwhittaker [at] fairvote.org, @fairvote
Communications director for FairVote, Whittaker said today: “It is highly unlikely that the recounts will change the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. FairVote’s analysis of the 27 election recounts from 2000-2015 shows that the shift in margin is less than 0.02 percent. However, state recounts offer an important reminder that there must be trust and integrity in our elections systems from beginning to end.

“All three states targeted for recounts were won by a mere plurality. We saw similar plurality wins in the primaries and in many statewide elections. When a majority of voters cast ballots for someone other than the winner, democracy is failing all of us. We need innovative reforms like ranked choice voting which gives every voter a stronger voice to elect leaders that represent the will of the people.

“Last month Maine became the first state to adopt ranked choice voting for statewide elections for governor, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, and state legislature when voters approved a ballot question with 52 percent of the vote. All voters deserve an election system where their vote matters and is counted properly. While the 2016 election outcome is unlikely to change, everyone can take action now to make representative democracy a reality for all.” See Institute for Public Accuracy news release from Election Day: “The ‘Second-Most Important Vote’ Today.” See resource page: “Ranked Choice Voting in States.”