Pa. certifies election counts, with Trump on topNext step is Dec. 19 Electoral College vote
As far as state officials are concerned, Donald Trump carried Pennsylvania.
The Department of State on Monday certified the results of the Nov. 8 presidential election, with Republican Trump leading Democrat Hillary Clinton by more than 44,000 votes.
That move followed a federal judge's ruling earlier in the day rejecting a request by Green Party candidate Jill Stein for a recount of paper ballots in Pennsylvania. Stein also argued that the state's mix of electronic and optical-scan voting machines might be vulnerable to hacking and cyber attacks, so they should be permitted to conduct a forensic analysis of the machines.
U.S. District Judge Paul Diamond wrote that Stein's suspicion of a “hacked” election "borders on the irrational."
Stein, meanwhile, captured only a fraction of the votes in each state, including just 0.82 percent in Pennsylvania.
The department’s action followed the presidential vote certification by each of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties.
Often misunderstood by the general public, voters on Election Day are not choosing the president directly, but voting for a slate of electors who will make the final choice.
With 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency, Trump won 306 to Clinton's 232. So despite Clinton's lead of more than 2 million popular votes, Trump clearly captured electoral victory.
Gov. Tom Wolf followed the Department of State's certification on Monday by signing what is called a certificate of ascertainment, as required under federal law.
As Diamond pointed out in his rejection of Stein's request, the state was required to certify its election results by today as part of the process leading up to the Electoral College's meeting on Dec. 19. Failure to do so would bump selection of electors to the state legislature, he said.
Results for other races on the November ballot will be certified after all counties have completed the process.
GOP: Suit was 'outrageous'
Stein had been seeking recounts in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan, three states where Trump eked out close wins.
A federal judge in Michigan last week halted Stein's recount bid there, as CNN reported.
Wisconsin's recount, completed and certified on Monday, actually increased Trump's lead by 131 votes, the Los Angeles Times reported, finding that he won 1,405,284 votes, or 22,748 more than Clinton.
Michigan gave him the slimmest victory of the three, or just over 10,000 votes out of nearly 4.8 million cast.
Trump, the Pennsylvania Republican Party and the state attorney general’s office all opposed Stein's suit here.
"It is time for disappointed liberals and special interests to stop these ridiculous actions and ludicrous claims and respect the will of the voters who elected Donald Trump as our next President," party General Counsel Lawrence Tabas said.
"The attempts to use taxpayer dollars to delay the election of President-elect Donald Trump by the Electoral College are outrageous."
Stein released a statement responding that Pennsylvanians’ right to have their votes counted had been "stripped from right under them."
"Pennsylvania’s election system is stacked against voters. Both the technology by which voters cast ballots, as well as the byzantine and burdensome laws determining recounts in the state, are a national disgrace," Stein said.
What happens next
Next week, 538 members of the Electoral College, including 20 from Pennsylvania, will gather in their individual states and Washington, D.C. to officially pick the president.
As Philly.Com explains, pressure is mounting on electors across the nation to consider voting for someone else.
A Change.org petition, signed by more than 4.8 million people, calls on "Conscientious Electors" to break ranks and put Clinton in the White House.
Is that possible? Sort of. Likely? Many sources say no.
"There is no federal law or constitutional provision requiring electors to vote for the party that nominated them, and over the years a number of electors have voted against the instructions of the voters," the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) points out.
NCSL notes that 29 states and the District of Columbia have laws attempting to prevent "faithless electors" by binding them to their pledge to support the candidate chosen by the voters, with penalties such as fines or disqualification.
Pennsylvania's electors are unbound.
Nationwide, no elector has ever been penalized or replaced, NCSL adds, "nor have these laws been fully vetted by the courts."
Moreover, with electors typically selected based on party loyalty — President Bill Clinton is an elector in New York, for example — most observers consider a mass defection from Trump highly unlikely.
In Pennsylvania, a recent Associated Press report found that the state's Trump electors showed no sign of wavering, despite an avalanche of calls, letters and emails trying to change their minds.
Philadelphia's National Constitution Center, in a blog post last month, explained how the Electoral College voting process works, and why efforts like the Change.org petition are unlikely to be successful.
But that's not likely to prevent pressure on electors from continuing to build over the next six days.
Others, meanwhile, are looking ahead to the future of the system, questioning whether the Electoral College should be done away with altogether.