Amanda Holpuch in New York
Friday 25 November 2016 21.57 GMT Last modified on Friday 25 November 2016 22.00 GMT
For some the campaign is a chance to show Hillary Clinton is the rightful winner, while others see Stein’s intervention as a gimmick to promote the Green party.
Jill Stein, the Green party’s candidate in the US presidential election, formally filed a motion for a recount in Wisconsin on Friday as her funding effort for counting the votes again in three states passed $5m.
As more money flooded in for her effort – which aims to fund recounts in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, all states where Donald Trump narrowly beat Hillary Clinton – she admitted she had no hard evidence of fraud but said the systems were vulnerable.
Her campaign team said it would formally file in Wisconsin before the 5pm ET deadline to do so; the recount motion deadlines for the other two states are next week. Less than half an hour before the deadline, the Wisconsin elections commission confirmed it had received the recount petition.
Her move has split opinions, with some energized by the thought it has potential to show defeated Democrat Clinton is the rightful election winner, and those who see Stein’s intervention as an expensive gimmick to promote the Green party.
The fundraising site explained that Stein’s campaign “could not guarantee” any of these states would have a recount. “We can only pledge we will demand recounts in those states,” the site said.
Amid questions from some quarters about how the money would be used, the site said: “If we raise more than what’s needed, the surplus will also go toward election integrity efforts and to promote voting system reform.”
On Friday, Stein said she was acting due to “compelling evidence of voting anomalies” and that data analysis had indicated “significant discrepancies in vote totals” that were released by state authorities.
“We do not have a smoking gun,” Stein told CNN. “On the other hand, we have a system that invites hacking, tampering and malfeasance.”
She said her campaign had no direct evidence voting systems had been hacked – something independent experts have also been skeptical about. And Stein insisted the recount was not meant to block Donald Trump, the surprise election winner, from becoming president.
Stein has frequently expressed disappointment in Clinton, and the day before the election described the Democratic nominee as a “warmonger” and said a victory for the former secretary of state would be “a mushroom cloud waiting to happen”. Those comments led to Stein being condemned by elected members of the Green party in Europe.
“Both of the candidates were at the highest level of distrust and dislike in our history and in my view, we as voters deserve a voting system that we can believe in,” Stein said on Friday. “And to my mind, having a verified vote is just a first step”.
Stein launched the campaign amid wider calls to recount or audit election results. Groups of academics and activists were concerned that foreign hackers may have interfered with voting systems, though none have provided evidence such hacking occurred.
These groups have called on Clinton to intervene. She is leading in the popular vote by more than 2.1m votes, a lead which is expected to grow. But Trump won narrow victories against Clinton in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin earlier this month and was declared the victor in Michigan on Thursday – sealing his electoral college win.
Stein’s effort, launched on Wednesday afternoon, is directed at funding recounts in those three states. Stein quickly surpassed the initial $2m fundraising goal by early Thursday morning, prompting her campaign to raise the goal to $4.5m. After crossing that threshold, the campaign increased the goal to $7m.
These funds will be used to file recount requests and for attorney’s fees, according to Stein’s campaign manager, David Cobb. He said $1m was needed for Wisconsin, $600,000 for Michigan and $500,000 for Pennsylvania. The rest of the money is expected to go to legal fees associated with the recount.
Adam Parkhomenko, national field director for the Democratic national convention and a longtime Clinton aide, said he did not support Jill Stein and “never will”, but: “I support democracy and the right to count every vote. And kudos to her for leading on this.”
US elections are so dominated by Democratic and Republican candidates that third-party candidates like Stein are more often seen as representing protest votes than a person with a legitimate shot at the White House. But these votes can greatly affect the race. For instance, Stein’s total votes in Michigan and Wisconsin were greater than the gap between Clinton and Trump, as were votes for the other major third-party candidate, Libertarian Gary Johnson.
And while it cannot be assumed that Stein voters would have voted for Clinton if Stein had not been on the ballot, it is a sensitive issue in such a tight race.
“I really wish Jill Stein had not waited until after the election to be so concerned about a few thousand votes tipping the election to Trump,” said Dan Pfeiffer, a former senior policy adviser to Barack Obama.
He criticized the fundraising campaign as a “wasted” effort and said funds could be better used to help Democrats in smaller, local races.
There was more energy around third-party candidates in 2016 because of the unpopularity of the main party candidates. Yet in the past two days, Stein’s recount campaign has raised more money than she did in the entirety of the presidential campaign. As of 19 October, Stein had raised $3.5m for her presidential race, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. As of 10am ET on Friday, the recount campaign had raised $4.8m.