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U.S. Appeals Court Refuses To Stop Michigan Recount

(Reuters) – A federal appeals court refused on Tuesday to stop a recount of the Nov. 8 presidential election vote in Michigan that is being sought by Green Party candidate Jill Stein.

The ruling by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld a decision by a lower court judge, came one day after Stein sued in federal court in Pennsylvania to try to force a statewide recount of U.S. presidential votes there.

Stein also pushed for a recount that is under way in Wisconsin, which with Michigan and Pennsylvania, was key to Republican President-elect Donald Trump’s victory.

The Green Party candidate’s moves are unlikely to change the outcome of the election but she has maintained they are necessary to ensure the integrity of voting systems.

Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin defied their recent history of supporting Democratic presidential candidates and handed Trump narrow wins that ultimately gave him victory over Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, a Republican, filed a lawsuit on Friday to halt the requested recount in the state, which Trump won by about 10,700 votes.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Editing by Peter Cooney)

IMAGE: Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein speaks during a news conference outside Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York City, U.S. December 5, 2016. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Trump Supporters Try To Block Recounts

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

Why Is Trump Fighting So Hard To Stop The Recount In Michigan?

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet

The Trump campaign filed a legal petition Thursday to stop Michigan’s presidential recount, saying Jill Stein has no chance of winning and no grievance, and there’s no way a hand count can be done before the Electoral College meets December 19.

“Despite being a blip on the electoral radar, [Green Party nominee] Stein has now commandeered Michigan’s electoral process,” said Trump’s petition to Michigan’s Board of State Canvasser. “Indeed, on the basis of nothing more than speculation, Stein asks that Michigan residents endure an expensive, time-consuming recount, and the scrutiny and hardship that comes with it.”

The Trump campaign called the recount an “electoral farce,” ignoring that it has been filed in a state where its candidate leads Hillary Clinton by almost 11,000 out of 4.8 million votes cast, the smallest margin of the final three states that gave Trump an Electoral College majority after election night. (The Green Party is also seeking recounts in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Wisconsin began its recount Thursday, while challenges continue in Pennsylvania as the Green Party is filing local petitions at county election boards.)

“She does not allege, let alone explain, how a fourth-place finisher could be ‘aggrieved’ by the election canvass,” Trump’s petition said, saying candidates must be harmed to seek a recount under Michigan law. “And even if that could be overlooked, Stein’s request would have to be denied because no recount can be reliably competed in the time required by state and federal law” (to meet the Electoral College’s deadline).

Trump’s objection comes just one day after state officials said they would do a full, statewide hand recount of all votes cast in Michigan, beginning Friday, December 2. Because of the filing, the state canvassers’ board, an appointed body that has already pledged its support of the recount, will have to postpone counting until it holds a hearing and issues a ruling within five days. If the recount goes forward, Trump’s objections will have delayed the process up to a week and made it that much harder to complete before presidential electors convene.

“You wonder why they are fighting it so hard,” said Bob Fitrakis, an Ohio-based attorney who was involved in that state’s 2004 presidential recount and has been advising the Green Party in 2016. “Michigan, with its thousands of undervotes [no vote recorded for president] in Democratic strongholds—these people voted the whole ticket but left off Hillary Clinton?”

“They are trying to run out the clock,” he said, saying that same delaying tactic was used in Ohio in 2004 when the Green and Libertarian parties filed for a presidential recount in the state where George W. Bush unexpectedly beat John Kerry, despite media exit polls and other indices suggesting the incumbent president would be defeated.

Stein issued a statement blasting Trump’s petition to stop the recount, calling it a “shameful” and “outrageous” attempt to verify the accuracy, security and integrity of the election.

“The recount in Michigan, which has been driven by an outpouring of grassroots support in the state, will go forward,” Stein said. “The Michigan Board of State Canvassers and Director of Elections has been a model of professionalism in moving this recount forward in an efficient, transparent manner. Yet the Trump campaign’s cynical efforts to delay the recount and create unnecessary costs for taxpayers are shameful and outrageous.”

The Green Party filed its recount petition Wednesday, paying an initial filing fee of $973,250 for the state’s first presidential recount in more than a half-century. That sum may be adjusted upward once the recount is complete. Her campaign paid Wisconsin a $3.5 million fee for a recount in a state where Trump leads Clinton by 23,000 votes. Stein’s statements emphasized that the recount’s purpose is to verify the vote and showcase vote count problems, including the possibility the machinery malfunctioned or was hacked.

“The true costs of this recount are the result of elected leaders who have refused to invest in a 21st-century voting system and powerful politicians who are putting up obstacles in an effort to prolong, undermine and stop this recount,” Stein said. “But as the overwhelming grassroots demand shows—close to $7 million raised by nearly 150,000 people—Americans are hungry for a voting system they can trust, and they won’t let these obstacles get in their way.”

On Monday, the Michigan Board of State Canvassers certified that Trump won by 10,704 votes, or a margin of just 0.22 percent of the total vote. But computer scientists and election experts have raised serious concerns about election results in papers filed for the Wisconsin recount. These include the vulnerability of voting machines that can be breached without detection and have a tendency to misread ballot markings. In Michigan, there were 75,335 under-count tallies—votes that machines did not record as selecting anyone for president—nearly double the amount recorded in 2012.

“America’s voting machines and optical scanners are prone to errors and susceptible to outside manipulation,” said J. Alex Halderman, one of the nation’s leading cyber security experts and a professor of computer science at the University of Michigan who filed court papers supporting a recount.

“Paper ballots, like those used in Michigan’s elections, are the best defense we have against cyberattacks, but that defense is only effective if we actually look at the paper trail after the election,” he said. “That’s precisely why we need this recount—to examine the physical evidence, to look under the hood. A recount is the best way, and indeed the only way in 2016, to ensure public confidence that the results are accurate, authentic, and untainted by outside interference.”

Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America’s democracy and voting rights, campaigns and elections, and many social justice issues. 

IMAGE: A sample ballot is seen in a photo illustration, as early voting for the 2016 general elections began in North Carolina, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, U.S. October 20, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake