Lansing — The Green Party’s 2016 presidential candidate Jill Stein could not have requested a recount in Michigan under legislation a committee advanced Thursday to the full House for a possible vote.
The House Elections and Ethics Committee approved a bill sponsored by the panel’s chairman, Rep. Aaron Miller, R-Sturgis, that would require “aggrieved candidates” to show that they could have won the election if not for fraud or error. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be able to initiate a recount, as Stein did after Republican Donald Trump won Michigan last November by 10,704 votes over Democrat Hillary Clinton.
“The ridiculous 2016 recount charade for which Michigan taxpayers were forced to foot the bill shows just how important it is to update our statutes before it happens again,” Miller said in a statement. “These bills protect tax dollars while still preserving the integrity of the recount process for instances in which it is truly necessary.”
State law required Stein to pay $973,250 for the massive recount, all performed by hand. It cost $125 per physical and absentee ballot precinct, but Secretary of State Ruth Johnson's office estimated the actual cost for the state and local clerks could approach at least $5 million.
Stein requested the recount citing concern about revelations of Russian election interference and hackers targeting election systems in 20 states.
The Michigan Court of Appeals held that the state should have never begun a recount because Steinh was not an “aggrieved candidate,” meaning that “the candidate must be able to allege a good faith belief that but for mistake or fraud, the candidate would have had reasonable chance of winning the election.”
Trump defeated Stein by more than 2.2 million votes. The Republican finished with 2,279,543 votes to Clinton’s 2,268,839 votes and Stein’s 51,463 votes.
The recount was eventually halted by state and federal judges, who ruled Stein was not an “aggrieved party” under Michigan law because she had no chance of winning the election. The state refunded Stein $632,125 for precincts that were not counted.
Stein argued the recount was a way to know for sure whether potential voting machine hacks or fraud took place. The partial recount instead revealed significant human errors in Detroit and problems in other jurisdictions, but no evidence of a hack or error widespread enough to swing the election.
Trump also repeatedly questioned without evidence whether the process was “rigged” in the run-up to the election he won.
Some computer security experts have said post-election audits of paper ballots should be performed routinely to ensure the integrity of the nation’s elections.
Trump widened his lead over Stein by 668 votes in the partial recount, but Clinton would have picked up a net gain of 103 votes on Trump had the limited results counted. The votes were not added to the official tally, however, because the recount was halted before completion.
Another Stein-inspired Senate bill would require a $250 precinct fee if there’s a difference of 75 votes or 5 percent of the total number of votes cast.