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An unprecedented presidential recount in Michigan

This afternoon, the Michigan Board of State Canvassers will, in all likelihood, certify the results of the November 8th election - bringing Campaign 2016 to an official close and opening the door to Recount 2016.


Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania are about to become the center of the U.S. political universe as the Green Party and its presidential candidate, Dr. Jill Stein, try to upset the order of things and make elections officials in those three states go back and check their work.

A recount of presidential votes in Michigan has never happened before. This process will not be a simple thing.

Unofficially, it appears Republican Donald Trump has a more than 10,700 vote lead over Democrat Hillary Clinton. Jill Stein came in fourth in Michigan, with some 51,000 votes. That’s 1.1 percent of the vote.

And, interestingly enough, the Stein campaign says it’s not looking to change the result of the election, which seems highly unlikely anyway.

But being a losing candidate on the Michigan ballot gives Stein standing to demand a recount even if it offers her virtually no chance of winning the state.

Top of the ballot

David Cobb is Stein’s national campaign manager. He says the goal is not to change who heads to the White House, but to test whether ballot counting in Michigan and other swing states is, in fact, accurate.

“The point is that we don’t know the results of the election because we don’t verify the votes effectively in this country, so we are, in fact, trying to change the way that votes are counted in this country but we don’t know if that’s going to result in any change in the result of the votes in this election.”

The Stein campaign says more than 84,000 ballots cast in Michigan did not include a vote for president. And that that begs the question of whether Michigan’s optical scan system for reading ballots actually registered all the votes in the presidential race.

Busy days before a deadline

If a recount goes forward, it will be intense. The process will take place in clerks’ offices in all 83 Michigan counties.

Lawyers and observers - recruited by the Greens, by Democrats, by Republicans - will be looking on as seals are broken on ballot boxes, people match votes to ballot numbers, and challengers sit at every table while elections officials inspect the returns.

In fact, email blasts have been sent time and time again over this past weekend calling on volunteers to be available to be recount watchers.

But, even before that happens, don’t be surprised if this goes to court.

Republicans could try and argue that Stein and the Green Party are so deep in the hole that a recount won’t help her win the state, so the whole effort is irrelevant and a waste of time.

And all of this will play out with a December 19th deadline looming, when presidential electors will meet at the state Capitol to formally cast Michigan’s 16 electoral votes for a presidential candidate.

Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta continued the conversation on Stateside. Listen here.

Zoe Clark is Michigan Public's Political Director. In this role, Clark guides coverage of the state Capitol, elections, and policy debates.
Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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