Trump Defeated by Judge Who Orders Immediate Recount in Michigan
The Green Party’s push for presidential recounts swung into high gear early Monday as a federal judge in Michigan dismissed GOP objections and ordered that state’s recount to begin immediately, and Jill Stein’s campaign filed a federal suit seeking a statewide recount in Pennsylvania, whose election system they called a “national disgrace.”
Michigan Federal Court
The court victory came early Monday, when U.S. Court District Judge Mark Goldsmith granted the campaign’s emergency request to start the statewide recount immediately. His opinion, issued just after midnight, said a state law requiring a two-business-day waiting period to start the recount likely violates voting rights. “The fundamental right invoked by plaintiffs—the right to vote, and to have that vote conducted fairly and counted accurately—is the bedrock of our nation,” he said, ordering the recount to begin Monday at noon.
Goldsmith dismissed objections by Donald Trump’s campaign and Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, a Republican, that sought to block or delay the recount, saying further delay would throw into doubt the authority of the state’s Electoral College vote, scheduled for December 19, thereby voiding Michigan voters' input into selecting the next president.
“Without completion of the recount, any controversy regarding which candidate’s electors had been elected in the November 8 election might ultimately be decided by Congress, rather than conclusively determined by Michigan,” the federal judge wrote. “Plaintiffs here have shown a credible threat that the recount, if delayed, would not be completed by the 'safe harbor' day [a week before, when the state’s votes are to be submitted].”
Goldsmith said the arguments by the Trump campaign and Schuette were flimsy—he called them “unavailing"—saying that they would not be harmed by a recount, but “the recount would likely ease their burden somewhat,” and rejected the state GOP’s argument that they needed more time to make travel arrangements for observers. “Michigan Republican Party briefly argued that the changes to the recount schedule have caused it some logistical problems concerning flight and hotel reservations booked for people,” he wrote, “but this concern must yield to the constitutional rights at issue here.”
There are still two pending lawsuits in Michigan that could interrupt the process. The Board of State Canvassers deadlocked Friday on a motion by Trump to block the recount, which led the Green Party to file in federal court seeking the emergency order for it to begin—granted by Goldsmith. That lawsuit and one filed by the state’s attorney general against Michigan’s Bureau of Elections is still pending.
“Despite all the obstacles that Donald Trump and his cronies in the political establishment have thrown in the way of this democratic process, we are excited to be pushing forward with the recount set to begin on Monday,” said a Stein aid Monday. “Eighty percent of Americans were disgusted with this election, and many people resonated with Donald Trump's assertion as a candidate that the election was rigged. Now 62 percent of Americans, including a plurality of his own voters, believe Donald Trump would be calling for a recount if he had not been declared winner. The American people are clamoring for a voting system that we can trust—and to bring about that system, we must conduct this recount on behalf of all citizens to verify the vote and earn public confidence in our elections.”
The Stein campaign is hoping a Michigan recount, in which paper ballots that were marked with pens will be counted by hand, will resolve the question of why there were 75,335 “under-votes”—ballots that were scanned by electronic devices but did not register a vote for president. That percentage is about 70 percent more than in 2014. “Many of these are in Oakland and Wayne Counties, which include Detroit, raising the very real possibility that communities of color may have been disenfranchised by an erroneous counting of the votes,” the campaign said. “The number of under-votes exceeds by several-fold Trump's margin of victory in the state.”
Pennsylvania’s 'National Disgrace'
The campaign also filed a federal suit in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in a hard-hitting complaint that described why the state’s voting machinery and procedures are a “national disgrace,” and sought an immediate hand recount of the paper ballots in counties where they are electronically scanned and a “thorough forensic examination of a reasonable sample of DRE [direct recording electronic] voting systems” used by a majority of the state.
“The Pennsylvania election system is a national disgrace,” the complaint said. “Voters are forced to use vulnerable, hackable, antiquated technology banned in other states, then rely on the kindness of machines. There is no paper trail. Voting machines are electoral black sites: no one permits voters or candidates to examine them.”
“After Election Day, voters are equally helpless to make sure their votes are counted,” the lawsuit continued. “The Election Code requires 27,474 voters in 9,158 districts to bring notarized petitions to county boards, in time for shifting, divergent, and secret deadlines known to no one except, perhaps, 67 separate county election boards. In court recounts, voters must pay exorbitant fees, and (according to boards of elections) should only one voter fail to sign a single petition in a single district anywhere in the State, no one can seek a recount anywhere. This labyrinthine, incomprehensible, and impossibly burdensome election regime might make Kafka proud. But for ordinary voters, it is a disaster.”
The federal court filing was provoked by a series of escalating slights from an array of state and county officials that blocked the possibility of a recount.
The most egregious was a decision by Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court to demand that the 100-plus voters who petitioned for a statewide recount post a $1 million fee to be able to move forward with their case. As the Green Party's federal lawsuit aid said, “Petitioners are regular citizens of ordinary means. They cannot afford to post the $1,000,000 bond required by the Court.”
Elsewhere, Trump and his GOP allies have tried to exploit the state’s dated election laws and opaque election bureaucracy to block the Green Party’s citizen-initiated recounts, in which hundreds of volunteers have submitted petitions to county boards of elections from at least three voters in every precinct to start a presidential recount in that tiny jurisdiction. The citizen-initiated process was unfolding again a backdrop of county election boards reporting their official presidential results to the state. By last Thursday, Trump’s lead in the state fell from roughly 70,000 to 40,000 votes, which is within 0.3% of triggering an automatic statewide recount. That led Trump to file an objection in state court, claiming that following through with the recount would somehow “put Pennsylvania at grave risk.”
Meanwhile, lawyers for the Republican Party have tried to block the recount in courthouses from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh. In Montgomery County, the GOP alleged that voters could not file their recount affidavits because they allegedly failed to pay a “required” $50 court filing fee, even though the voters paid almost double that fee. Trump’s surrogates argued that it requires 27,000 voters in all the state’s 9,163 precincts to request a recount in order for the voters in any single precinct to be recounted.
The Stein campaign’s federal lawsuit seeks to pull the process out of these nuts-and-bolts weeds and restore the focus on the big-picture—namely, was the vote count accurate or was there any evidence of tampering with it.
“In the 2016 presidential election, rife with foreign interference documented by American intelligence agencies and hacks of voter rolls in multiple states, voters deserve the truth. Were Pennsylvania votes counted accurately?” the complaint said. “That truth is not difficult to learn: simply count the paper ballots in optical scan districts, and permit forensic examination of the electronic voting systems in DRE districts. This can be done in days, by top experts, if necessary at the Stein campaign’s expense, under the supervision of election officials, and without endangering a single vote.”
“A majority of machines voted for Donald Trump in Pennsylvania. But who did the people vote for?” they summed up, restating the core of the issues as seen by the election integrity movement, which has argued for a decade that computer voting systems are uniquely vulnerable to manipulation by political insiders in ways that are akin to old-fashioned ballot box stuffing. “Absent this Court’s intervention, Pennsylvanians will never know that truth.”