Stein nears goal for Mich. recount
Lansing — Michigan could come roaring back into the national presidential spotlight this week as Green Party candidate Jill Stein prepares to demand a statewide recount that Republican President-elect Donald Trump is denouncing.
Michigan’s Board of State Canvassers meets at 2 p.m. Monday to vote on certifying election results in all 83 counties that show Trump narrowly prevailed over Democrat Hillary Clinton by 10,704 votes.
That action will start a 48-hour clock for Stein to exercise her right to request and pay for a hand recount of 4.8 million votes cast in the contentious Nov. 8 election.
Stein continued to raise money over the weekend to fund a three-state recount in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — three blue states that Trump turned red in his upset victory over Clinton in the Electoral College.
The Green Party nominee, who won just 1.1 percent of the vote in Michigan, said she’s pursuing the recount to verify the accuracy of the differing types of voting machines in all three states.
“When Donald Trump said the election is rigged, a lot of people resonated with that — and they haven’t changed their minds,” Stein said Saturday night in a Facebook video. “It’s not about who won. It’s about the process here. We are not in this to overturn the results of the election. If that happens, so be it.”
As of Sunday evening, Stein had raised more than $6.1 million of $7 million goal to fund the recount efforts.
“This is a scam by the Green Party for an election that has already been conceded, and the results of this election should be respected instead of being challenged and abused, which is exactly what Jill Stein is doing,” Trump said Saturday in a statement.
A statewide recount in Michigan would cost $790,000 to cover the $125-per-precinct fee for county canvassing boards to check every vote, according to the Secretary of State’s office.
The costs of recounts in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania vary.
Stein’s campaign manager has said any donations not used for the recount efforts will be directed toward building the Green Party’s base of candidates for public office.
“This recount is just a way for Jill Stein, who received less than 1 percent of the vote overall and wasn’t even on the ballot in many states, to fill her coffers with money, most of which she will never even spend on this ridiculous recount,” Trump said Saturday.
Stein and her supporters point to the fact 84,290 ballots did not have a recorded vote in the presidential election — an increase of 80 percent from the number of voters who sat out the 2012 presidential contest.
In 2012, 46,713 voters skipped the presidential contest and 37,314 left the White House race blank on their ballots in 2008, according to state election records.
Stein called the 84,290 ballots without presidential votes a “sky high number of blank votes,” raising the specter that Michigan’s optical scanning machines missed faintly marked votes in the presidential contest.
“Who in their right mind would not want assurance that we are counting the votes?” Stein said in the Facebook video. “You wouldn’t get into an airplane that didn’t have a built-in safety mechanism, that doesn’t have built-in quality assurance.”
Trump and Clinton’s historically low popularity ratings may have caused a high number of voters to skip the presidential contest this year.
Third party and write-in candidates also may have played a role in diverting votes away from the GOP and Democratic nominees, garnering 250,902 votes of the 4.79 million total votes cast in the presidential contest.
Stein’s 51,463 votes alone were more than all the votes cast in 2012 for all third-party and write-in candidates combined.
Election lawyers who have worked on recounts in races for the Legislature and local races say the number of additional votes not counted by the machines could increase in a recount for all candidates.
“In this case, even though there are a lot of precincts and a lot of votes, typically the math breaks equally,” said John Pirich, a Lansing-based elections attorney.
Trump slammed Stein’s efforts hours after an attorney for the Clinton campaign confirmed they will participate in the recounts, should all three states authorize them.
Clinton attorney Marc Elias said the campaign wasn’t initiating recounts because it hasn’t found “any actionable evidence of hacking or outside attempts to alter the voting technology.”
Trump’s 10,704-vote victory in Michigan, Elias said, “well exceeds the largest margin ever overcome in a recount.”
“But regardless of the potential to change the outcome in any of the states, we feel it is important, on principle, to ensure our campaign is legally represented in any court proceedings and represented on the ground in order to monitor the recount process itself,” Elias wrote in blog post on Medium.com.
Trump ripped the Clinton campaign on Sunday for getting involved in the recounts after she conceded the race nearly three weeks ago.
“So much time and money will be spent — same result! Sad,” Trump wrote on Twitter.
Despite Trump’s comments, Michigan Republican leaders over the weekend began plotting their response to a possible Stein recount and recruiting volunteers to monitor a statewide examination of paper ballots in 6,300 precincts across the state.
“We’re being cautious. This is just uncharted territory,” said Sarah Anderson, spokeswoman for the Michigan Republican Party. “We had Donald Trump win Michigan once. Should we have to go through this sham of a recount, we’re confident that he will have still won Michigan.”
Anderson said there’s no evidence of tampering with the optical scanning machines that tabulate the vote. Election officials contend Michigan’s decade-old machines can’t be hacked because they aren’t connected to phone lines or the internet.
“There’s no reason to go through this process,” Anderson said. “It’s laughable, but not funny.”
Michigan Democrats were largely in the dark Sunday about how the Clinton campaign wants to handle a recount in all 83 counties.
“What that means in terms of support with the volunteers and any other form of support, I’m not certain,” said Brandon Dillon, chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party. “We’re going to take our cues from the Clinton campaign on this.”
Dillon was skeptical a recount would lead to a Clinton victory in Michigan, which she had been favored to win for months.
“It’s highly unlikely that this is going to change the results of the election,” Dillon told The Detroit News. “But I don’t think it’s ever a ‘waste of time’ to make sure all votes are cast accurately.”
Staff Writer Jonathan Oosting contributed.