Michigan’s GOP Attorney General Bill Schuette did his best to stop Jill Stein’s effort to force a presidential election recount in the Wolverine State.
Now county clerks and elections workers are scrambling to meet a Michigan constitution-imposed deadline of Dec. 13 to finish the recount.
“This is an ENORMOUS job and I can’t imagine Michigan can examine 4.8 million ballots before the December 13 deadline – unless they have 2 armies assembled to get it done,” John Crawford, one of the recount volunteers, told PJM in a Facebook message.
The enormous and unprecedented task is the result of what some have called a quixotic endeavor by former Green Party presidential candidate Stein to recount presidential election ballots in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.
A recount is already underway in Wisconsin.
Although Stein withdrew her recount request in Pennsylvania over the weekend, she indicated a federal lawsuit seeking a statewide recount could be expected.
Stein said 84,000 of the 5.5 million voters in Michigan on Nov. 8 didn’t include a vote for any of the people running for president, even though they had cast votes for offices on the ballot.
Stein described that as a “red flag” of possible tampering or fraud.
“That is quite an unusual number. This is breaking records, blowing through the roof. This may be a tip off, or a red flag that there’s either been machine error or in some cases tampering,” Stein said during a WDET radio show.
Michigan was the last state to be called in the November election. It was tight. President-elect Donald Trump won by a razor-thin margin of fewer than 10,000 votes out of the 5.5 million votes cast.
But no matter how tight the election was between Trump and Clinton, Schuette had argued that Stein had no business even asking for a recount because she didn’t come close to contending.
“Michigan voters rejected Stein’s candidacy by massive margins, but her refusal to accept that state-verified result poses an expensive and risky threat to hard-working taxpayers and abuses the intent of Michigan law,” said Schuette.
“We have asked the court to end the recount, which Stein is pursuing in violation of Michigan laws that protect the integrity of our elections. It is inexcusable for Stein to put Michigan voters at risk of paying millions and potentially losing their voice in the Electoral College in the process,” Schuette added in a Friday statement that accompanied the news he had filed suit to stop the recount in Michigan.
Mark Brewer, the attorney representing Stein, also did his best.
“There are questions raised throughout the country about the integrity of the election,” Brewer said during an unusual Sunday hearing in federal court.
“It’s not just rhetoric,” Brewer added.
Just after midnight today, U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith issued a ruling that ordered an immediate start to the recount process that should “continue until further order of this court.”
“Defendants shall instruct all governmental units participating in the recount to assemble necessary staff to work sufficient hours to assure that the recount is completed in time to comply with the ‘safe harbor’ provision” of federal election law, Goldsmith wrote.
Goldsmith also rejected concerns about the cost of the recount.
“As emphasized earlier, budgetary concerns are not sufficiently significant to risk the disenfranchisement of Michigan’s nearly 5 million voters,” Goldsmith wrote.
He ordered the recount to begin at noon today.
State and county elections officials across Michigan launched into overdrive as soon as they got to their desks this morning, facing that deadline of Dec. 13 to finish the recount.
“We’re just trying to get the logistics hammered out. Not many people replied to my text message at 12:30 this morning,” Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum told the Detroit Free Press.
No matter what Judge Goldsmith would prefer, the recount won’t begin in two of Michigan’s largest counties until Tuesday.
Local clerks in Wayne County were expected to bring the ballot containers from 1,680 precincts to Cobo Center in Detroit today, where they would be kept under lock and key until the official recount begins the next day.
In suburban Detroit, Macomb County elections workers will begin counting ballots from 674 precincts tomorrow. The problem there is county officials were expecting to use today and Tuesday for training.
Goldsmith’s order means they will be short one preparation day.
“Getting more time is always better than having less time,” Todd Schmitz, a spokesman for Macomb County Clerk Carmella Sabaugh, said.
In western Michigan, Kent County Clerk Mary Hollinrake there was no way her people could start counting votes today.
She expected to start recounting ballots Wednesday.
“It isn’t physically possible for us to start today, and the state knows it,” Hollinrake told MLive.
Today she worked on making it physically possible. County workers moved tables and chairs into an empty space in a local police department for the recount workers.
The on-again, off-again nature of the preparations thanks to lawsuits filed back and forth by the two sides of the recount debate didn’t help, either.
“It’s an enormous amount of work,” Hollinrake said, “to ramp up and then ramp down and then ramp up again.”
Well, she might have to move the tables and chairs back out of the Wyoming Police Department before much recounting is done.
Trump and Schuette filed separate lawsuits with the Michigan Court of Appeals and the Michigan Supreme Court on Friday, which could stop the recounting Tuesday or Wednesday.