A statewide recount of Michigan’s votes in the presidential election died in the courts and was suspended or never started in most Michigan counties, but was completed in Ingham County.
Overseeing operations at the Ingham County Fairgrounds in Mason, County Clerk Barb Byrum and a staff of volunteers account for almost 135,000 ballots. Byrum said, “it has been a monumental undertaking. Tables and chairs, projectors and screens being taken to the fairground, a printer this afternoon, over 300 emails for people who are interested. I currently have 50 workers and need more.” Byrum described her situation as a logistical hell and estimated the recount cost around $7,530 per day.
The final Ingham County results showed that Hillary Clinton gained 138 votes, Trump gained 73 and Stein lost two votes. With those results, Clinton gained 65 votes over Trump in Ingham County.
The recount was on again, off again and finally declared dead Dec. 7 by a federal judge. The recount was requested by Green Party candidate Jill Stein. She asked for recounts in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, though she was not close in any state. Donald Trump narrowly won all three states on his way to winning the most electoral college voters.
In a WDET radio interview this month a Pulitzer Prize-winning Free Press journalist Stephen Henderson asked Stein about the recount. She said she wanted to make sure every vote was counted correctly for the sake of everyone who voted this election.
“Eighty percent of voters said they were disgusted coming out of this election,” she said. “Polls showed that confidence in our basic social institutions. Whether it’s political parties, Congress, the executives, the media, the judiciary, that confidence is at an all-time low.”
Mark Brewer, former chair of the Democratic Party in Michigan, was one of Stein’s top attorneys during the recount bid. He said he was terribly disappointed that the recount was terminated. He agreed that the main objective was not trying to change results, but to show flaws in Michigan’s voting systems.
“We wanted to have the recount done by the 13th,” he said. “However, for nearly three days, we were not able to do a manual recount. But the three days we were in showed the problems and we hope our state can fix it for future elections.”
Charles Musser was one volunteer. His reason for volunteering was because computer scientists at the University of Michigan reported highly unusual statistical anomalies in the election results in the three key states.
“Those anomalies weren’t proof of hacking or fraud but did suggest it was a possibility,” said the Lansing resident. “Under those circumstances, why not look and see what was going on? This was never about trying to change the results of the election. It was about ensuring the integrity of our democratic institutions.”
Chris Brown, a resident of Livingston County, reported a long delay in the recount there. “One precinct had 1,850 ballots, and their original count was off by one,” he said. “That meant they had to count again, and when the second count matched the election number, they had to count a third time to see which number was correct. It took them almost 10 hours to complete that one precinct.”
Ann Landen of Oakland County thought the recount process was fascinating despite only working for half a day. “Had them in piles of 25, packed in a case,” she said. “The number of ballots had to match the poll workers on election night. In our precinct, there were 1,218 ballots and it came out at 1,219. We had people of different affiliations look over the workers.” Landen said one of her motivations had to do with proving president-elect Trump wrong about his tweet saying that millions of illegal citizens voted this election.
Amrita Singh, a Hillary Clinton supporter, is part of the nationwide group called Pantsuit Nation. She got involved as a recount monitor for the Stein campaign. She said she was surprised that Clinton’s campaign did not take a more active role and by the turnout in the county.
“What was even more surprising was the amount of Trump supporters that were … willing to be a part of this,” she said. “But the most difficult thing about this and what I thought the training course should’ve addressed was how to separate the ballots that had party write-ins and the normal ballots voters had in their precincts on election day.”Although most Michigan voters preferred President Barack Obama in 2008 and ’12, support for the Democratic party slipped in this election and went to Trump or third-party candidates.
Originally, the Michigan recount was to begin the morning of Dec. 2, but the Trump campaign requested a halt to Stein’s petition. The Board of State Canvassers met that morning at the Lansing Center. A tie vote kept the recount alive. The recount for Ingham County moved to the following Monday.
Other counties, including Livingston and Oakland, suspended their recounts.