By Joseph Ax
(Reuters) - The recount effort by Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein in three crucial U.S. states neared an end on Monday, after weeks of legal wrangling yielded only one electoral review in Wisconsin.
A U.S. judge in Pennsylvania rejected Stein’s request for a recount and an examination of that state’s voting machines for evidence of hacking in the Nov. 8 election won by Republican Donald Trump.
Meanwhile, Wisconsin election officials said on Monday they had completed their recount. The full numbers were expected to be available within hours, though it appeared they would largely affirm the election’s results.
Stein, who finished fourth in the election, challenged the results in those two states as well as Michigan, where the state’s top court on Friday denied Stein’s last-ditch appeal to keep a recount going. All of those traditionally Democratic strongholds supported Trump over Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Even if all three recounts had taken place, they were always unlikely to change the outcome.
Stein argued that the use in many Pennsylvania districts of electronic voting machines with no paper trail left the system vulnerable to hacking.
In a 31-page opinion, U.S. District Judge Paul Diamond in Philadelphia said it “borders on the irrational” to suspect hacking occurred in Pennsylvania. He also emphasized that the deadline to certify the state’s electoral votes is Tuesday, making it impossible to hold a recount in time.
While there is no evidence of large-scale voting machine hacking, U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia targeted Clinton in a series of cyberattacks on Democratic Party groups. Trump has questioned those reports.
In response to Diamond’s ruling, Stein said in a statement that Pennsylvanians’ right to have their votes counted had been “stripped from right under them.”
As of Monday morning, the Wisconsin recount was 95 percent complete and had narrowed Trump’s lead over Clinton by only 25 votes.
Trump won Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan by more than 27,000, 68,000 and 11,000 votes, respectively.
Despite winning the national popular vote by more than 2 percent, Clinton would have had to sweep those states to win the presidency under the U.S. Electoral College system, which assigns electoral votes state-by-state rather than by overall national totals.
(Reporting by Joseph Ax in New York; Additional reporting by Timothy McLaughlin in Chicago; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn, Bill Trott and Andrew Hay)