The presidential recount in Michigan is a complete and utter mess

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The state of the Jill Stein-backed attempt to recount the votes in the presidential election in Michigian can be summed up with this quote from Detroit elections director Daniel Baxter in The Detroit News: "It's not good."

How not good is it? Well, federal and state courts have both issued contradictory rulings this week about whether or not the recount could continue, for one thing. And Michigan state laws regulating recounts mean that, even if the recount is allowed to finish, the results are likely to not be very different from what they were on Election Day.


First, The Michigan Court of Appeals ruled on Tuesday that Jill Stein did not have standing to challenge the results of the presidential election, and that the state's canvassing board was mistaken to allow the recount. But at the same time, a federal appeals court rejected a request by the Republican Party and the state's Republican attorney general to halt the recount.

Stein's lawyers and their Republican challengers disagree on which court has precedence in this situation, but the state court seemed to agree that its ruling would not supersede a federal judge's order to continue the count. This will certainly set up further legal battles on the federal level.

But even though the recount seems to be continuing for now, there's another major wrinkle.

A 1954 Michigan state law has a set of parameters regulating when the results of a voting precinct cannot be recounted. If, for example, the number of votes recorded at a polling place doesn't match the number of ballots issued, that precinct cannot be recounted, and the original number submitted in November stands. You would think that a discrepancy like this would be a reason to have a recount, not a reason to forbid one. Thanks a lot, 1954 Michigan government.


This is a problem now. The Detroit Free Press reported that in Oakland and Macomb counties, two Detroit suburbs that have already begun the recount, 24 precincts were found to not be recountable under this law due to discrepancies ranging from one vote to 11. Wayne County, the state's most populous county that includes metro Detroit, still hasn't decided what precincts can and can't be recounted, but election officials say 392 of 662 precincts have similar discrepancies.

So yeah, to once again quote Daniel Baxter, "It's not good."

If state law prevents more than half of highly Democratic Wayne County from being recounted, there is little chance Hillary Clinton will make up any ground on her 10,704 vote gap between Donald Trump. Not that the odds are great on that anyway. Of those 392 precincts with discrepancies, almost half of them are off by just one vote.


But it's still better to know for sure.

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