Attorneys for Green Party candidate Jill Stein Saturday suddenly withdrew their statewide challenge to Pennsylvania’s presidential vote, citing a $1 million bond required by the court to proceed. They say they’ll take the case to federal court Monday.
“The judge’s outrageous demand that voters pay such an exorbitant figure is a shameful, unacceptable barrier to democratic participation,” Stein said in a statement Saturday night. “This is yet another sign that Pennsylvania’s antiquated election law is stacked against voters.”
A few hours after that statement, Jonathan Abady, lead counsel to the Stein recount efforts said the campaign won’t quit, but will move to federal court instead.
“Make no mistake — the Stein campaign will continue to fight for a statewide recount in Pennsylvania. We are committed to this fight to protect the civil and voting rights of all Americans,” Abady said. “Over the past several days, it has become clear that the barriers to verifying the vote in Pennsylvania are so pervasive and that the state court system is so ill-equipped to address this problem that we must seek federal court intervention. As a result, on Monday the Stein campaign will escalate our campaign in Pennsylvania and file for emergency relief in federal court, demanding a statewide recount on constitutional grounds.”
The campaign filed a formal contest to the presidential result in Commonwealth Court last Monday, the first ever in Pennsylvania.
It was an uphill battle from the beginning. The campaign asked the court to order a full recount and a forensic audit of the state’s voting software, arguing cyber-hacking could have altered the results. But the campaign’s filings offered no evidence that any tampering had occurred in Pennsylvania.
The effort was headed to a Monday hearing in Harrisburg, but on Friday the court ordered the campaign to post a $1 million bond to proceed. Though the Stein campaign paid big fees in Michigan and Wisconsin, it made a different choice here.
In a court filing late Saturday, Stein campaign lawyer Lawrence Otter said the voters who signed the contest petitions are “regular citizens of ordinary means” who can’t afford the bond, so the challenge was withdrawn.
In addition to the statewide challenge, the campaign recruited hundreds of voters to seek recounts in their home voting precincts, and recounts in dozen of divisions will continue in several counties. But the recounts will cover only a tiny fraction of the 6 million votes cast statewide, and so far courts and election boards have rejected the campaign’s requests to open voting machines to look for evidence of hacking.
Meanwhile as absentee and provisional ballots are counted and reported to election officials in Harrisburg, Trump’s margin in the state has shrunk from around 71,000 on election night to 49,543 as of Saturday night.
While the number will almost certainly change again before state vote is certified, Trump’s margin Saturday night was 135 votes fewer than Stein herself got in Pennsylvania .