What happened with the recount effort in Michigan?

Michigan’s election showed an anomaly suggesting possible machine error or tampering: over 70,000 ballots cast that had no recorded vote for president. This number was about seven times the margin of difference between the two leading candidates. In addition, the margin of difference between the winner and runner up was only 0.2% - marking another red flag for possible error or tampering.

Despite these red flags, the Michigan recount was stopped by the courts within days of starting. Legal opposition to the recount was led by GOP operatives, who filed several lawsuits to block the recount.

Ultimately, the state court ruled that Stein did not have “standing”, claiming she was not a proper party to seek a recount under Michigan law because she did not come close enough to winning the election. This ruling was unfortunate because recounts should not be undertaken based on who calls for them. They should be conducted because they’re needed - as indicated by irregularities and tight margins. In the future, statistical audits should be used to verify election results, and point to any discrepancies that show when a recount is needed. Ultimately, it’s the voters - and our democracy - who benefit from having recounts, and elections we can believe in.

Despite the short duration of the Michigan recount, serious problems quickly surfaced that called the accuracy of results into question. In Detroit alone, a shocking 87 voting machines broke on Election Day, many jamming when voters fed ballots into optical scanners resulting in erroneous vote counts. Daniel Baxter, elections director for the city of Detroit, told the Detroit News that the discrepancies were due to the city’s decade-old voting machines, saying the situation was “not good.” These problems underscored the findings of a U.S. Civil Rights Commission report in 2000 that found voters of color are at greatly increased risk of having their votes misread or simply tossed out.

In spite of the obstructions, it is a victory for the recount and all who worked on it that in the aftermath of the recount, new voting machines are being purchased for the entire state.

The recount also brought to light bizarre rules that declare precincts ineligible for recounting if they have discrepancies between their vote count and the number of voters listed in their poll books. That means that the areas most in need of investigation are legally prevented from getting it - yet another example of how existing laws prevent verification of election results.


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