Officially, history will record President-elect Donald Trump as having won the 2016 presidential race in Michigan by some 10,704 votes.
But Dr. Jill Stein, the Green Party’s presidential candidate in the 2016 election, believes that the numbers would be different if all 4.8 million votes cast in the Wolverine State were recounted.
That won’t happen, Stein conceded in a rally in downtown Detroit on Saturday, a day after the non-recused members of the Michigan Supreme Court ruled, by a 3-2 margin, against Stein’s appeal, leaving the candidate with no recourse.
“We may be moving out of the court of law, but we’re moving into the court of public opinion,” Stein said.
The rally lasted about 40 minutes in freezing temperatures, and attracted dozens of the candidate’s supporters. It took place near the foot of a street named ceremonially for Congressman John Conyers, Washington Boulevard.
After remarks from Green Party member Lou Novak, party delegate Anita Bell, and Stein, the former candidate and some of the crowd moved inside Cobo Center, where Stein spent time taking questions and talking with her supporters near the statue of “Brown Bomber” Joe Louis.
Cobo had been a recounting site, before that was cut short.
“In the three states where filed recounts, we had Donald Trump, his superPACs and the Republican Party pulling out all the stops,” Stein said. “And you have to wonder, why are they doing this? What is Donald Trump afraid of? Either he does not have faith in democracy or he does not believe he won this election.”
Bell, a Green Party member who helped supervise the vote-counting effort at Cobo, became emotional several times during her brief remarks, during which she called the election system in Michigan “a flaming hot mess,” a language Stein would herself adopt. Even if the results of the 2016 election won’t change, and even if there won’t be a full recount in Michigan, Stein said, the state needs election reform.
Bell called out voting irregularities she’d learned of, like how a polling place in Ionia County allegedly used a garbage can as a ballot box, or one in Gibraltar that sealed a ballot box with mere duct tape, or a precinct in Detroit that tabulated 300 votes but only 50 were found in the box.
“Hot mess! Hot mess!” Bell said before handing the microphone to Stein.
“This is what democracy looks like!” Stein said in her opening. The fight, at its heart, is about “the right to a vote we can trust,” she said, and was not an effort to tip the election toward or away from any particular candidate, just an effort to ensure that people who cast votes actually had their vote recorded.
“Count every vote, and make sure every vote counts,” Stein said. “This dysfunction in our elections flows downhill. It flows to communities that do not have resources...The equipment that’s used is prone to break. And it’s not just the 87 scanners that failed in Detroit on Election Day.”
What raised a “red flag” in Michigan, Stein said, was the 75,000 ballots cast without also making a choice in the presidential race.
“This is a sky high number, far higher than anything that has been seen before in the state,” Stein said. “That really raised questions, and when we tried to ask those questions, you see what we got. We asked ‘do we have a voting system we can trust?’ and we got a resounding ‘no.’”
Stein called for automatic recounts and increased access for third party candidates in presidential debates going forward. If the recount effort is dead, as Stein admits, she said the fight will move to “the court of public opinion.”
“We shouldn’t have to have a bake sale on steroids and raise millions of dollars in order to have assurance that our votes actually count,” Stein said, referring to her online fundraising effort for recounts in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, which raised $7.3 million from in a short time.
“We not only have a right to vote, but to know who we can vote for,” Stein said, arguing that third party candidates should be able to participate in presidential debates.
“In this election, most people were voting against the candidate they hate the most. A lot of that is not knowing who you can vote for. They were screaming out for more voices and more choices,” Stein said, citing the 43 percent of registered non-voters nationwide. “We had four candidates in this race, not two, and that would’ve meant a real debate about what wages ought to be. We needed a real debate about health care — not about how we privatize is, but how we ensure it for all people.”
“Democracy needs an affirmative agenda,” Stein said. “It needs a moral compass. We deserve to liberate our votes so that we can vote for the greater good, not for the lesser evil,” which she called a “lose-lose proposition.”
Another reform Stein touted was “ranked choice voting,” which Maine voters approved by a 52-48 margin in November. Under the ranked choice system, voters would select, say, four candidates on a 1-4 basis. The candidate who comes in last place would be eliminated from each round; whoever has the most votes in the end would be the winner. But even in Maine, that applies to legislative, congressional, senatorial and gubernatorial candidates, not presidential. That system goes into effect on elections held after Jan. 1, 2018.
Ranked choice voting would allow voters to “vote for an underdog you believe in,” Stein said. “We can fix this broken system.”
Stein, who hails from Massachusetts, was asked whether she planned to run again in 2020.
“I get out of bed in the morning to fight as hard as I can, in what ever way that I can, and I’m here to fill whatever role I can be most useful in,” Stein said. “That’s as much as I know about 2020 right now. But if I’m still breathing, I’m still fighting.”