HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP/KDKA) - Green Party-backed voters dropped a court case Saturday night that had sought to force a statewide recount of Pennsylvania's Nov. 8 presidential election, won by Republican Donald Trump, in what Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein had framed as an effort to explore whether voting machines and systems had been hacked and the election result manipulated.
UPDATE, DEC. 4: Green Party Will Seek Emergency Federal Court Order Instead
The decision came two days before a court hearing was scheduled in the case. Saturday's court filing to withdraw the case said the Green Party-backed voters who filed the case "are regular citizens of ordinary means" and cannot afford the $1 million bond ordered by the court by 5 p.m. Monday. However, Green Party-backed efforts to force recounts and analyze election software in scattered precincts were continuing.
Stein planned to make an announcement about the Pennsylvania recount Monday outside the Trump Tower in New York.
"The judge's outrageous demand that voters pay such an exorbitant figure is a shameful, unacceptable barrier to democratic participation," said Stein. "This is yet another sign that Pennsylvania's antiquated election law is stacked against voters. By demanding a $1 million bond from voters yesterday, the court made clear it has no interest in giving a fair hearing to these voters' legitimate concerns over the accuracy, security and fairness of an election tainted by suspicion. No voter in America should be forced to pay thousands of dollars to know if her or his vote was counted. Still, the recount continues and we will fight to ensure the civil and voting rights of all citizens are protected. We look forward to announcing our next step on Monday and we will pursue every available remedy to ensure Pennsylvanians can trust what happened in this election."
The court case had been part of an effort spearheaded by Stein to force recounts in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, three states with a history of backing Democrats for president that were narrowly and unexpectedly won by Trump over Democrat Hillary Clinton.
A recount began Thursday in Wisconsin, while a recount could begin next week in Michigan. Trump's victory in Pennsylvania was particularly stunning: the state's fifth-most electoral votes are a key stepping stone to the White House, and no Republican presidential candidate had captured the state since 1988.
Stein had said the purpose of Pennsylvania's recount was to ensure "our votes are safe and secure," considering hackers' probing of election targets in other states and hackers' accessing of the emails of the Democratic National Committee and several Clinton staffers. U.S. security officials have said they believe Russian hackers orchestrated the email hacks, something Russia has denied.
Stein's lawyers, however, had offered no evidence of hacking in Pennsylvania's election. They sought unsuccessfully in recent days to get various counties to allow a forensic examination of their election system software.
Lawyers for Trump and the state Republican Party argued there was no evidence, or even an allegation, that tampering with Pennsylvania's voting systems had occurred. Further, Pennsylvania law does not allow a court-ordered recount, they argued, and a lawyer for the Green Party had acknowledged that the effort was without precedent in Pennsylvania.
A statement from the Pennsylvania GOP sent Saturday night read, in part:
"The filing of a discontinuance of the Election Contest by Jill Stein's petitioners tonight is a recognition that their Election Contest was completely without merit, and meant solely for purposes to delay the Electoral College vote in Pennsylvania for President-Elect Trump...Candidate Jill Stein's allegations created the false allusion that some unidentified foreign government hacked our state's voting systems when absolutely no such proof existed. We believe that she always knew that she had no such proof."
An updated count Friday by state election officials shows Trump's lead shrinking to 49,000 from 71,000 over Democrat Hillary Clinton. Trump's lead is 0.8 percent, down from over 1 percent, out of 6 million votes cast. That's shy of Pennsylvania's 0.5 percent trigger for an automatic statewide recount.
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