Court hearing set for Sunday in Michigan vote recount

Court hearing set for Sunday in Michigan vote recount
Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein on Aug. 19, 2016.

DETROIT — A hearing is expected Sunday in U.S. District Court to decide when a recount of Michigan presidential election ballots can begin.

Green Party candidate Jill Stein filed suit against state election officials in federal court in Detroit late Friday, the latest in a raft of lawsuits over her request for a recount of Michigan’s presidential election vote.

Barring a court injunction, the hand recount of about 4.8 million Michigan ballots is likely to begin Wednesday, though it is possible it could get under way late Tuesday, state Director of Elections Chris Thomas said Friday.

Thomas made that determination after the Board of State Canvassers deadlocked 2-2 on President-elect Donald Trump’s objections to Stein’s request for a recount — meaning the recount proceeds.

Thomas said that under state election law, officials must wait two business days after ruling on Trump’s protest before starting the recount.

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But in a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Detroit, Stein says that delay is unreasonable and violates equal protection and due process rights guaranteed under the Constitution, “effectively denying the right to vote” if the recount is not completed in time to meet federal deadlines.

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The court announced late Saturday night that it would hear the case in a rare Sunday hearing. The 10:30 a.M. ET case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith.

Stein, represented by Southfield attorney Mark Brewer, is seeking a court order to start the recount immediately. Defendants are Thomas and members of the Board of State Canvassers.

Stein has been trying to force recounts in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, three states with a history of backing Democrats for president that were narrowly and unexpectedly won by Trump over Democrat Hillary Clinton.

On Saturday night, the Green Party dropped a court case that had sought to force a statewide recount in Pennsylvania. The decision came two days before a court hearing was scheduled in the case.

Saturday’s court filing to withdraw the case said the Green Party-backed voters who filed the case “are regular citizens of ordinary means” and cannot afford the $1 million bond ordered by the court by 5 p.M. Monday. However, Green Party-backed efforts to force recounts and analyze election software in scattered precincts were continuing.

In Michigan, Brewer, a former chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party, said in the court filing that Michigan’s electronic scan voting machines, though they are not connected to the Internet, are “frighteningly vulnerable to hacking” through malicious software that could affect the vote count. He cited as a potential red flag the fact that more than 75,000 Michigan ballots included no vote for president.

The Stein filing cited the Dec. 13 “safe harbor” deadline, six days before the electoral college is scheduled to meet, as the deadline for completing the recount, though Thomas said he believes it is possible for the recount to go beyond that date and still have Michigan’s vote counted.

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On Friday, Trump and Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette sued separately in state court to block the recount, with Schuette asking that his case be sent directly to the Michigan Supreme Court to expedite appeals. Those cases are pending.

Stein finished fourth in the presidential election in Michigan, getting just more than 1% of the vote. Official Michigan results show Trump defeated Clinton by 10,704 votes.

Trump and Schuette argue Stein has no grounds to request a recount that could cost taxpayers millions beyond the $973,250 filing fee Stein paid.

Contributing Paul Egan and Tresa Baldas, Detroit Free Press, and The Associated Press.