Mich. readies for presidential recount as cutoff looms

Michael Gerstein
The Detroit News

Lansing — Elections officials are preparing for a possible presidential election recount in Michigan that could begin as soon as next week, state Director of Elections Chris Thomas said Friday.

Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein has indicated she plans to jumpstart a recount in the Great Lakes state over fears that Michigan’s election results could have been manipulated by hackers. Republican President-elect Donald won the state by 10,704 votes over Democrat Hillary Clinton, according to unofficial updated results posted Wednesday.

By Friday afternoon, Stein had raised more than $5 million of her $7 million goal to cover the cost of a recount in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan “to ensure the integrity of our elections” because “there is a significant need to verify machine-counted vote totals,” according to her campaign website. Stein finished nearly 2.3 million votes behind Trump in Michigan and received 1.1 percent of the vote.

Michigan’s deadline for initiating a recount is Wednesday. “We have not heard from anybody,” Thomas said about a Stein recount request. “We’re just trying to be proactive, make sure we have plans.”

Thomas said officials “could probably begin by the end of the week,” although it will be “a huge undertaking in a very short period of time” if it happens.

A recount in Michigan would cost Stein about $790,000 to cover the $125-per-precinct cost for more than 6,300 precincts across the state, Secretary of State spokesman Fred Woodhams said.

Thomas has told The Detroit News there is no evidence of any hack or voting system manipulation.

University of Michigan computer scientist Alex Halderman did not return emails or phone calls from The News, but wrote in a blog post that the state’s election system was “probably not” hacked. But he has urged Clinton to request a recount to know for sure whether results were manipulated or not.

Thomas said the Stein campaign has not yet contacted officials with the Secretary of State’s office. The deadline for a request is Wednesday if the Board of State Canvassers certifies the election as scheduled on Monday.

The office doesn’t have an estimate for how long a recount would take but it would be conducted at the local level and overseen by state elections officials, Thomas said, adding that the state has made such preparations in the past in case of the rare scenario unfolding. It would involve reviewing nearly 4.8 million votes.

Michigan has been through statewide recounts before. They include a recount of the 1950 gubernatorial race involving Democratic incumbent G. Mennen “Soapy” Williams and Republican Harry Kelly and a retallying of 1968 daylight savings time ballot proposal that voters rejected by a slim margin. It passed in 1972 when the issue came up again.

Stein’s recount effort was prompted by a group of cybersecurity experts who have urged Clinton to request a recount in the three battleground states.

“The only way to know whether a cyberattack changed the result is to closely examine the available physical evidence  —  paper ballots and voting equipment in critical states like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania,” U-M’s Halderman wrote in a blog post.

The Stein campaign said it has covered the costs for a recount push in Wisconsin in Pennsylvania. By Friday evening, the campaign was seeking to meet its estimated $7 million cost to cover the planned Michigan recount effort, too.

The Stein campaign says the money goes toward covering filing fees, attorney fees and the cost of statewide recount observers in all three states.

Former Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Mark Brewer said the state’s optical scanner ballot tabulators can sometimes miss the mark.

“I have seen in recounts that I have done that the machines do not count all the ballots,” Brewer said Friday. “There’s no doubt that if somebody casts a vote and the machine fails to count it, that is a denial of a person’s right to vote.”

The Michigan Republican Party is not concerned about a possible recount, spokeswoman Sarah Anderson said.

“If she wants to spend her money, we’re confident she didn’t win,” Anderson said. “...We’re confident (Trump) won the first time, and we’re confident he’ll win the second time.”