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Green Party nominee Jill Stein appeared to have met her initial fundraising goal early Thursday for recounts of the vote in three key swing states that went to Donald Trump — Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
However, she quickly raised the sum being sought by another $2 million. "Raising money to pay for the first round so quickly is a miraculous feat and a tribute to the power of grassroots organizing," a message on her website read.
The Green Party didn't single out any specific evidence of fraud, nor does it need proof of irregularities to call for a recount. Stein's party won only 1 percent of the vote.
"After a divisive and painful presidential race, reported hacks into voter and party databases and individual email accounts are causing many Americans to wonder if our election results are reliable," Stein said Wednesday. "These concerns need to be investigated before the 2016 presidential election is certified. We deserve elections we can trust."
A small but vocal group of scientists and activists has emerged in recent days advocating for a recount on the basis of Trump's unexpected win and concerns about Russian involvement in the election. They note that only a small minority of public polls predicted Trump's success, and although public polls have been wrong before, the magnitude of their error this cycle was unprecedented.
They also point to evidence that Russian hackers infiltrated the Democratic National Committee and potentially a top adviser to Hillary Clinton's campaign as evidence of both ability and willingness. Hackers compromised voter records in Illinois and attempted to breach voting systems in a handful of other states before the election.
Clinton campaign officials haven't commented on Stein's efforts, which hinge on the Green Party's ability to pay for a recount.
Stein told supporters Wednesday that she needed to raise "over $2 million by this Friday, 4 p.m. central," to put her plan to action. The deadline to file for a recount in Wisconsin is Friday, while the deadlines for Pennsylvania and Michigan are next week. Recounts are costly to conduct, and each state requires various fees depending on the size of the vote lead and how expansive the recount is.
She surpassed her website's original $2.5 million goal by 3 a.m. ET Thursday. Within around 20 minutes, the sum had been increased to $4.5 million. And by 7:30 p.m. ET Thursday, that goal was only $200,000 away.
"Now that we have nearly completed funding Wisconsin's recount (which is due on Friday), we can begin to tackle the funding for Michigan's recount (due Monday) and Pennsylvania's recount (due Wednesday)," a message on her site read. "In true grassroots fashion, we're turning to you, the people, and not big-money corporate donors to make this happen."
A recount wouldn't change the outcome for Stein. She came in fourth, behind Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson, Clinton and Trump, taking a little less than 1.4 million votes overall.
But there's a very small chance that a recount in those states could boost Clinton. Trump won Michigan by about 9,500 votes, Wisconsin by 22,500 votes and Pennsylvania by 69,700.
Given the relatively wide margin for Trump and Clinton's narrow advantage in more traditionally blue states like Minnesota, it's unlikely that compromised voting machines were to blame.
Trump aide Kellyanne Conway took a jab at the effort Thursday, tweeting, "Look who 'can't accept the election results.'"
Most political observers agree that the more likely reason for Clinton's loss was an unforeseen breakdown in the Democratic turnout machine in key states, which meant Democrats simply stayed home. There was no evidence of any vote tampering on Election Day, and even flipping one state in Clinton's favor wouldn't give her the Electoral College votes needed to win.
Last week, two experts advocating for a recount, voting-rights lawyer John Bonifaz and J. Alex Halderman, director of the University of Michigan Center for Computer Security and Society, made a phone call to Clinton campaign officials. The voting experts urged the campaign to file for a recount in key states, but their efforts, a person on the call said, were rebuffed.
"While many of us were hoping Clinton's campaign would pursue this, it seems clear they won't, because they said there's no clear proof of fraud" at the ballot box, which candidates typically cite in calling for a recount, that person said.
The source said it was clear that the Clinton advisers were also concerned about not disrupting the transfer of power or causing further unrest over the Trump presidency, which has already sparked protests and marches across the United States in the weeks since Clinton conceded and Trump became president-elect.
But proof of fraud is both "usually unattainable and also unnecessary" in many states to file for a recount, the person on the call said, and at the very least it would allay the concerns of voters who insist that the results of the election don't reflect them.
"There's either a huge subset of hidden voters that didn't tell pollsters how they were going to vote, or something went awry with those voting systems. If we can X out that second option, why not?" the source said.