While there has been a lot of talk about hackers interfering with our presidential election, and millions of dollars have been raised by the Green Party for a recount of votes cast in at least one state, I believe that recount efforts are detrimental to our democracy and unlikely to uncover any hacking. Here are several of my reasons.
1. The relevant vote counts are not close enough to warrant recounts.
It seems all but impossible that sufficiently large errors in tallying votes were made in multiple states so as to enable a recount to change the results of the election. If a recount is not going to change anything, it wastes resources, and unnecessarily prolongs the period of hyper-partisanship and divisiveness that the recent election has brought upon our nation.
2. There is no evidence that hackers manipulated any voting machines or vote counts during the November 8 presidential election.
Discrepancies between the ratio of Clinton-to-Trump votes in different geographies raise questions, but might be perfectly explainable with demographic analysis -- and are certainly not evidence of hacking. Even if demographics could not explain the differences, why suspect hacking rather than other forms of election-related fraud? Why suspect artificial decreases of relative support for Clinton on electronic machines and not suspect artificial decreases of relative support for Trump in areas with paper ballots? Why recount in only states in which Trump beat Clinton and not vice versa? There were plenty of allegations of electoral fraud during the 1960 presidential election, for example, and there were clearly no hackers or electronic machines to hack. The "recount" effort seems more like a political act or publicity stunt and fundraising technique by a minor party than a sincere effort to combat hackers manipulating an election.
3. If hackers wanted to manipulate the election, they had better ways to do so than hacking voting machines.
Hackers could have manipulated our election -- but they had ways to do so that were more likely to be both successful at changing election results and at escaping detection. Focusing on voting machines is not going to get to the bottom of possible election-related hacking. Please see my article How Hackers Can Easily Manipulate Elections In The United States for more details.
4. Recounts do not audit election results.
In fact, a recount is unlikely to detect several types of manipulations that hackers might have actually employed to manipulate our presidential election. If we wanted to verify that hackers did not add people to voter registration logs, for example, we would have to do a massive audit of state voter registration databases and verify that all changes made to them within the past few years are valid, or at least that any changes related to people who voted in the current election are valid. Such a process would be extremely resource intensive, andnwould still not rule out other forms of hacker manipulation.
5. Recounts do not in any way change the impact of fake news on the election.
While I do not believe that fake news was a major factor in President-elect Trump's victory -- I am confident that he would have won without viral bogus stories circulating on Facebook -- it certainly was a troubling element of the 2016 election campaign, and one that cannot be addressed with recounts. Furthermore, sufficient people believe that fake news -- likely some of which was orchestrated by foreigners -- did have an impact, so a recount -- which will no doubt just confirm the results of the election -- effectively ignores their concerns of foreign intervention.
The bottom line is that the 2016 presidential election is over, and Donald Trump has been elected president of the United States. Unless we are prepared to perform a full audit of our election system without any probable cause to suspect that a significant problem actually exists, we should focus our resources elsewhere.