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Dic032016

Deadlock: Board vote means Michigan presidential recount proceeds



Election lawyers Gary Gordon, right, and John Pirich appear on behalf of the Trump campaign before the Michigan Board of State Canvassers regarding Dr. Jill Stein's campaign recount request on Friday, Dec. 2, 2016 at the Lansing Center.(Photo: Julia Nagy/Lansing State Journal)

LANSING, Mich. Michigan's Board of State Canvassers deadlocked 2-2Fridayon President-elect Donald Trump's objectionto Green Party candidate Jill Stein's request for a recount of all presidential ballots cast in Michigan, meaning a hand recount of the state's presidential ballots could begin late Tuesday or early Wednesday.

Still, a lawsuit filed Friday by Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette places any recount in doubt. Schuette asked the Michigan Supreme Court, which has a 5-2 majority of Republican nominees, to block the recount as a costly and pointless exercise.

Despite the delayed start, Elections Director Chris Thomas said he still hopes all 4.8 million ballots can be recounted. He said he doubts the Dec. 13 deadline that has been frequently cited is a "real deadline," and Michigan may have until Dec. 17 two days before the electoral college is set to meet to complete its recount, though he is still researching that point.

The board deadlocked along party lines, both on whether to accept Trump's protest to the planned recount and on whether to hold a machine recount, rather than the standard recount. Thomas said that as a result, based on previous board policy and state law, a hand recount can begin in two business days. Late Tuesday or early Wednesday is the earliest any counting will start, he said.

Estimates on the cost of the recount have varied and generally escalated, but Secretary of State spokesman Fred Woodhams said Friday that nobody will know the cost until the recount is completed, but $5 million is a reasonable estimate. That's more than $4 million higherthan the filing fee Stein paid, and officials said taxpayers at the county level will have to pick up that difference.

Lawyers for Trump argued it's ridiculous to conduct a massive and costly recount for Stein, who received just over 1% of the vote. She can't show she is "aggrieved" by the Nov. 8 outcome, as required by state law, argued Lansing attorneys Gary Gordon and John Pirich. And she waited much too long to request a recount, making it impossible to complete a recount without danger of disenfranchising Michigan's electoral college votes, they said.

The official Michigan count shows Trump won by 10,704 votes over Democrat Hillary Clinton, with Stein finishing fourth.

Stein attorney Mark Brewer said his client only has to "allege" that fraud or mistakes may have occurred in order to be aggrieved. And he pointed out that Trump himself has repeatedly alleged vote rigging and fraud in the presidential election process.

Board members split on party lines, with Democrat Julie Matuzak saying "if someone alleges impropriety and pays the fee, they get a recount."

Colleen Pero, a Republican board member, said it "would throw our entire election system into chaos" to allow the recount.

Both Secretary of State Ruth Johnson and Trump attorneys wanted a machine recount to be held, if any recount was held at all. Johnson said in a letter to board members that a machine recount would be faster, less expensive, and reduce the chance for errors.

But Thomas said a survey of county clerks suggests that's not true. A machine recount "adds another level of complexity," and is "not faster," because challengers want to see the actual ballots, Thomas said. It also would result in the need for programming of machines and possibly even the use of other facilities, in order to have enough electrical outlets to plug the machines in.

Brewer said he was pleased the board rejected Trump's "frivolous" objections and calls for a machine recount. He said he would have to consult with Stein about how to respond to Schuette's lawsuit.



Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein delivers remarks in Wilkes-Barre, Pa, in September.(Photo: Christopher Dolan, The Citizens' Voice, via AP)

Michigan Republican Party Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel, whoattended the meeting, said she wasn't surprised by the outcome, given the fact that two of the four members of the Board of Canvassers are Democrats.

It's "very clear" that the Michigan Democratic Party is not on the side of Michigan taxpayers on the recount question, McDaniel said.

Brewer wouldn't comment on whether Stein might be willing to pick up additional costs, if they are incurred by county clerks.

"We've done recounts in this state many times," and state election officials are expert in conducting them, Brewer said, "People need to get out of their way and let them do their jobs."

Pirich, an attorney for Trump, said he couldn't comment on whether Trump, like Schuette, would be suing over the recount.

Stein's campaign had promised to seek a recount partly because of the high number of ballots this election cycle, about 84,000,that did not include a vote for president potentially signaling a computer error, tampering or fraud, Stein has said. Her campaignfiled its request Wednesday, seeking a recount of the nearly 4.8 million ballots cast for president in Michigan.

Brewer filed the request at the state electionsoffice in Lansing with several other attorneys representing the campaign. He brought along a check for $973,250, which represents the $125 per precinct Stein must pay for the recount.

Saying that Michigan should not grant "this lawless, insulting request," Trump's campaign filed an objection Thursday afternoon to the recount request.

Michigan's "voters should not risk having the Electoral College door knocked off its hinges all because a 1% candidate is dissatisfied with the elections outcome," the objection stated. "Given her tiny vote total, Stein does not and could not possibly allege a good faith belief that she may have won the state of Michigan."

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