Federal judge orders Michigan recount to begin immediately

Ted Goodman, DCNF dcnf

A federal judge has ordered the recount of Michigan’s more than 4.8 million presidential ballots to begin at noon Monday.

The judge also ordered the state to “assemble necessary staff to work sufficient hours” in order to complete the recount by Dec. 13. Michigan mandates a two-day waiting period before recounting votes, which would push the start of the recount to Wednesday, but U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith agreed with lawyers that waiting would violate voting rights.

The decision came in early Monday morning, following a three-hour emergency hearing in federal court Sunday. Attorneys for former Green Party candidate Jill Stein argued hand counting Michigan’s 4.8 million ballots should begin immediately.

Under Michigan law, state officials must wait two business days after hearing an objection to a recount before they can start counting, in order to allow a court review of how the state election officials ruled on the objection. The state board of canvassers voted 2-2 on President-elect Donald Trump’s objection to Stein’s recount, meaning that Wednesday morning was the earliest that a recount could start — but the judge’s ruling changed that.

The judge’s decision means that Stein’s attorneys have shown “a credible threat exists and that the recount were delayed, would not be completed by Dec. 13,” which is the federal safe harbor deadline to guarantee Michigan’s electoral votes are counted on Dec. 19.

Trump received 2,279,543 votes, while former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee, received 2,268,839 votes after the Election Day tally. Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson received 172,136 votes, while Stein hauled in 51,463 votes.

The recount effort garnered additional credibility when the director of the University of Michigan Center for Computer Security and Society, J. Alex Halderman published perceived irregularities in voting systems in key Midwestern states. The report, while saying that a hack may be unlikely, highlighted concerns that hackers may have infiltrated the electronic voting systems in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. Trump won Michigan by a little over 10,000 votes.
The Clinton campaign recently confirmed it’s involvement in the recount effort, and is reportedly organizing volunteers in Michigan. 
Stein has retained former State Democratic Party Chairman Mark Brewer in the recount effort. Brewer argued that the large number of ballots that left the presidential portion blank represented a scenario that is “sufficient to change the result” of the election, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Meanwhile, the Wisconsin recount is underway, with state officials racing the clock in order to complete before Dec. 19. Proponents of the recount effort argue that Clinton received 7 percent fewer votes in counties that relied on electronic-voting machines compared with counties that used optical scanners/paper ballots. The group of concerned academics and lawyers claim that Clinton may have been denied as many as 30,000 votes (she lost Wisconsin by 27,000 votes). 

In Pennsylvania, Stein officially requested for a recount Nov. 28, but confirmed that they are no longer seeking a recount in the Keystone state.

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