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Monday, October 23, 2017

By David Ingram and Susan Heavey

NEW YORK/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Supporters of President-elect Donald Trump moved on Friday to halt the Green Party’s requests for long-shot recounts of the presidential votes in three states where Trump, a Republican, won with narrow victories.

Lawsuits were pending in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, three “Rust Belt” states which bucked their history of supporting Democrats and gave Trump thin wins in the Nov. 8 election.

The Green Party has said its requests for recounts in those states are focused on ensuring the integrity of the U.S. voting system and not on changing the result of the election.

Even if the recounts take place, they are extremely unlikely to change the overall outcome of the election, in which Trump beat Democrat Hillary Clinton. Green Party candidate Jill Stein, who garnered only about 1 percent of the vote, has said the recount campaign is not targeted at Trump or Clinton.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, a Republican, filed a lawsuit on Friday to halt the requested recount in his state, where Trump won with a margin of roughly 10,700 votes over Clinton.

Recounting all of the state’s votes “threatens to silence all Michigan votes for president” because of an impending federal deadline to finalize results, Schuette said in a statement.

In Wisconsin, where the recount is already underway, a federal judge on Friday rejected a request for an emergency stay by the Trump-supporting political action committee Great America PAC. U.S. District Judge James Peterson scheduled a hearing for Dec. 9 to consider whether to halt the recount at that time.

The lawsuit filed by the PAC cited as legal precedent the U.S. Supreme Court’s Bush v. Gore decision that ended the 2000 election and Florida recount.

The presidential race is decided by the Electoral College, or a tally of wins from the state-by-state contests, rather than by the popular national vote. Federal law requires states to resolve disputes over the appointment of electors by Dec. 13.

Trump surpassed the 270 electoral votes needed to win, with 306 electoral votes, and the recount would have to flip the result to Clinton in all three states to change the overall result. In the popular vote, Clinton had a margin of more than 2.5 million votes over Trump, the Cook Political Report said.

Schuette also criticized Stein for the potential expense of a recount, although Stein said last week that she had raised $3.5 million to cover some costs. A Schuette spokeswoman said on Friday that Stein had contributed $787,500, but the recount would cost some $5 million.

Stein has scheduled a news conference for Monday at Trump Tower in New York City.

“We won’t stand down as Donald Trump and his allies seek to frivolously obstruct the legal processes set up to ensure the accuracy, security and fairness of our elections,” Stein said in a statement on Friday.

Michigan’s recount is expected to begin on Wednesday, barring court action, after the state’s board of canvassers deadlocked 2-2 on Friday on a motion objecting to the recount, the Michigan Secretary of State’s Office said.

The board of canvassers is required to respond in writing to Schuette’s lawsuit by midday on Tuesday.

The Trump campaign’s own attorneys have also moved to block recount efforts in Pennsylvania and Michigan.

A Pennsylvania court has scheduled a hearing for Monday morning in Harrisburg, the state capital. In an order on Friday, the court told lawyers for both sides to be prepared to talk about whether enough evidence of wrongdoing exists to keep the case going.

According to Stein’s website on Friday, the Green Party had raised $6.8 million so far for the recount and has a goal of $9.5 million.

Lawyers for Clinton have said they would take part in the Wisconsin recount effort to ensure her campaign is legally represented, and that they would do the same if necessary in Michigan and Pennsylvania. Trump won Wisconsin with a margin of roughly 22,000 votes over Clinton, and in Pennsylvania he won with a margin of about 49,500 votes.

(Reporting by David Ingram in New York and Susan Heavey in Washington; Additional reporting by David Shepardson in Washington; Editing by Frances Kerry and Leslie Adler)

IMAGE: Michigan Attorney General William “Bill” Schuette speaks in Boston, Massachusetts, December 17, 2014. REUTERS/Dominick Reuter/File Photo

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