Lansing — President-elect Donald Trump’s attorneys on Thursday asked a state elections panel to reject Green Party candidate Jill Stein’s request for a statewide recount of the 4.8 million ballots in Michigan, calling it a “lawless” electoral “farce.”
Attorneys for Trump and the Michigan Republican Party argued that Stein has “commandeered” the state’s election process and should be denied a recount because she is not an aggrieved candidate since she finished fourth in the Nov. 8 election. Trump won Michigan by 10,704 votes over Democrat Hillary Clinton.
In a brief one-page request, Stein claimed she was “aggrieved on account of fraud or mistake” in the statewide canvass of Michigan’s presidential election. She offered no specific allegations of human error or manipulation of the electoral process.
“Indeed, on the basis of nothing more than speculation, Stein asks that Michigan residents endure an expensive, time-consuming recount, and the scrutiny and hardship that comes with it,” wrote Eric Doster, general counsel for the Michigan Republican Party.
Trump’s 36-page objection asks the Board of State Canvassers to reject the statewide recount on grounds that it would be costly to taxpayers to complete before a Dec. 13 deadline and that recounting the votes likely won’t change the election’s outcome.
It would take a 3-1 vote by the evenly divided board of two Democrats and two Republicans to stop the recount.
But the elections panel, which has scheduled a 9:30 a.m. Friday hearing in Lansing on Trump’s objection, has a long history of deadlocking on highly partisan issues. A 2-2 deadlock vote would cause the recount to go forward after two business days, likely starting Wednesday.
Democrat Julie Matuzak supported the recount at a Monday canvassers meeting and said Thursday it should go forward.
“I didn’t see anything in Mr. Trump’s response that would make me change my mind,” Matuzak told The Detroit News. “In my opinion, (Stein) has met the qualifications for asking for the recount.”
Jeanette Bradshaw, the other Democrat on the panel, did not express an opinion about the recount at Monday’s meeting and could not be reached Thursday for comment.
Secretary of State Ruth Johnson has estimated the recount will cost $5 million, with the state and counties picking up $4 million of the tab and Stein paying a $973,250 fee prescribed by law.
Over the past week, Johnson’s office has changed its estimate of the recount cost from $900,000 to nearly $2 million, before revising it to $5 million, based on the $3.5 million Wisconsin is charging Stein to machine-recount 1.9 million fewer ballots.
Trump received 2.27 million votes, or 47.5 percent, of the vote to Clinton’s 2.26 million votes, or 47.27 percent. Stein received 51,463 votes, or about 1.1 percent.
Stein hits Trump’s objection
“In Stein’s mind, apparently, election results are deemed unreliable, and election officials are deemed corrupt or incompetent, until proven otherwise. Nonsense,” Doster wrote. “Simply put, Michigan should not grant this lawless, insulting request, all because a 1 percent candidate is dissatisfied with the election’s outcome.”
Stein and her lawyers have contended all week their pursuit of an unprecedented recount of a presidential election in Michigan is to ensure the state’s optical-scanning voting machines work properly and have not been tampered with by hackers or criminals.
“The Trump campaign’s cynical efforts to delay the recount and create unnecessary costs for taxpayers are shameful and outrageous,” Stein said in a Thursday statement.
The objection from Trump’s attorneys argued that Stein is attempting to “sow doubts about the legitimacy of the presidential election” in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania in an effort to derail the Dec. 19 Electoral College vote that will formally elect Trump the nation’s 45th president.
“And in bringing mayhem to the otherwise orderly, time-honored Electoral College process, Stein is meddling with confirmation of the election’s outcome when Congress meets in January 2017,” Doster wrote.
Trump’s objection delays the planned Friday morning start of the recount in Oakland and Ingham counties by up to two full business days, depending on how the Board of State Canvassers decides to handle the objection.
“As soon as they resolve that, then by law the recount halts until two business days have lapsed,” said Fred Woodhams, spokesman for Secretary of State’s Office.
Depending on when the Board of State Canvassers makes a decision Friday, the recount could be delayed until Tuesday afternoon, he said.
The state Bureau of Elections intends to notify clerks in Oakland and Ingham counties not to start their recounts at 8:30 a.m. Friday. Oakland County’s elections director confirmed Thursday that county officials have put the recount on hold.
Start of recount urged
Mark Brewer, a Southfield-based attorney for Stein, said the recount should start Friday morning as planned without delay.
“This recount has commenced — at a minimum because of the filing,” Brewer said Thursday. “Preparations have been underway for several days.”
Before the recount objection, 10 counties, including Wayne and Macomb, had made plans to start their recounts on Saturday, according to the Michigan Secretary of State’s office.
But those plans have been put on hold, pending the Board of State Canvassers’ decision.
Stein decried the delay Thursday and continued to downplay the recount’s cost to the state and counties responsible for conducting the recount. Stein has raised nearly $6.8 million of a $9.5 million goal to fund recounts in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, according to her campaign website.
“The true costs of this recount are the result of elected leaders who have refused to invest in a 21st century voting system and powerful politicians who are putting up obstacles in an effort to prolong, undermine and stop this recount,” Stein said.