Attorneys for Green Party candidate Jill Stein are hoping a Philadelphia judge will be the first to give them access to voting machines and software so they can look for signs of hacking in the presidential election.
For a week now, Stein campaign attorney Ilann Maazel has made the case in one court after another that the voting machines used in Pennsylvania could have been cyber-hacked by a foreign power.
"These machines are vulnerable, they're hackable," he told reporters again. "They're a big black box, and inside that box is Pennsylvania democracy. We want to get inside that box and make sure that every vote is counted accurately. Because that is what democracy is."
No judge or election board has yet permitted Stein's computer experts to probe the machines' software because they've presented no evidence that anything was amiss.
But they think they have a shot in Philadelphia, where the city election board permitted a recount in 75 Philadelphia precincts where voters filed local petitions.
The board didn't permit Stein's experts to perform a digital audit of machines, so Maazel appealed to Common Pleas Court.
But in this case, the argument isn't about Russians, or whether there's any evidence of hacking. It's a simpler question.
"The law allows a presidential candidate to examine the voting system, to examine the voting machines," Maazel said.
He's right. Pennsylvania's election code says in a recount you can "examine" the machines.
The big question is what the word "examine" means. The board ruled it meant Stein's monitors could watch workers check the vote counts on the machines, which turned out to be exactly what was reported on election night.
Maazel and respected Philadelphia election lawyer Gregory Harvey argued in the common pleas case that "examine" has a broader meaning.
"It doesn't mean standing there like a potted plant," Maazel said after a court hearing Tuesday. "It means looking behind the machines to make sure the votes were counted accurately. That's what we think 'examine' means."
The judge in the case is Abbe Fletman, who spent years as an election lawyer before joining the bench.
She listened carefully to the arguments, sometimes reading her own copy of the election code from the bench as she weighed them.
Republican Party lawyer Jonathan Goldstein said Stein's lawyers shouldn't get to open up the voting machines.
"They're not entitled to it under the statute," he said. "There's a process. The process has to be observed, and a bunch of lawyers coming down from New York trying to upset that process is not really what the people of Pennsylvania deserve."
Fletman is expected to rule soon. Meanwhile, a hearing on a separate recount suit in federal court is set for Friday.
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