So, what does it mean for there to be an election recount?

The Takeaway
A voters arrives at a polling station

In the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election, Green Party candidate Jill Stein is paying for a recount in Wisconsin, with recounts in Michigan and Pennsylvania likely to join.

Hillary Clinton's campaign has agreed to participate in the recount effort.

Recounts typically do not reverse election results, but that notion hasn’t stopped President-elect Donald Trump from tweeting, without evidence, that there was "serious voter fraud in Virginia, New Hampshire and California."

“In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally,” the president-elect wrote in another unsubstantiated tweet. Trump won the election by less than 100,000 votes across four swing states.

Poorvi Vora, a professor of computer science at George Washington University, says the re-count isn't as much about changing the outcome as it is about assuring voter integrity and confidence.

“We don’t want to send a message to the world that technology decides our elections — our voters decide our elections, and that’s a very strong message we want to send,” she says. “It’s not about changing the outcome, it’s [saying] that we take our elections seriously.”

Though some say voting patterns among those of different races and education levels explain anomalies between computerized ballots and paper ballots, Vora says that only the ballots themselves provide the true answer, adding that the results should be audited in the interest of science and the integrity of the election.

“Statistical patterns are not evidence,” she says. “The statistics could be different and you could still have a good election, or the statistics might be the same and you have a bad election. Looking at polls and statistical patterns in the outcome is not the same as looking at the ballots. The ballots are the evidence.”

She continues: “I think that’s a distraction — statistical patterns and whether it’s supported by demographics and education levels and so on. What the ballots say is more important, and the ballots may support strange statistics, and they may support decent, regular, run of the mill statistics. We can only know if we look at the ballots.”

This story first aired as an interview on PRI's The Takeaway, a public radio program that invites you to be part of the American conversation.

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