The state of Michigan is preparing for a recount of nearly 4.8 million votes cast in the 2016 presidential race.
Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate for president, has raised more than $5 million to pay for recounts in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan. It won’t be cheap, and it will be a monumental task for the Secretary of State and 83 county clerks around the state.
She can’t request a recount in Michigan until the vote is certified, which is scheduled to happen at 2 p.m. Monday, when the Board of Canvassers meets to make the results – which show Republican Donald Trump with a 10,704 vote lead over Democrat Hillary Clinton – official. After the certification, she has until Wednesday afternoon to make the recount request.
“What we’re doing is standing up for an election system that we can trust. We deserve to have votes that we can believe in,” she said in a video on her Facebook page. “This is a commitment that Greens have expressed that we stand for election integrity, that we support voting systems that respect our vote. We demand voting systems that are accurate, that are publicly controlled, that are not privatized.”
The state has some experience with statewide election recounts, although not in nearly five decades, said Chris Thomas, director of elections at the Secretary of State office. One was done after one of Soapy Williams races for governor, as well as the daylight savings time vote in 1968, when voters rejected the issue by 490 votes. Voters passed daylight savings time when it came back to the ballot in 1972.
“Our plans are being drafted,” Thomas said. “We’re on top of it. We’ve got some blueprints on how it will be done.”
If a recount happens, all the ballots – all 4,799,284 presidential race votes – will be counted by hand at the county level under state supervision. It’s a process that Thomas said will happen quickly.
“We’re fast,” he said. “We do all of our state recounts by hand.”
And it will be expensive. Under laws passed in Michigan in 2014, which are intended to make it more difficult to recall lawmakers, recounts are costly for the people requesting them. When the margin of the race is more than 0.5%, the cost to recount is $125 per precinct. There are 6,300 precincts in Michigan, which translates into a whopping recount price tag of $787,500.
Since Stein only got 51,643 votes in Michigan compared to more than 4.5 million for Trump and Clinton combined, the cost per precinct for Stein would be $125 because her margin is not within 0.5 percent. If Clinton had asked for a recount, her cost would be $25 per precinct because she lost by such a slim margin. Stein also has estimated that she needs to raise several million for legal costs.
Stein said she’s not requesting the recount because she thinks it will change the outcome.
“This initiative is not about helping one candidate and hurting another,” she said. “We said over and over, we don’t support either of them. In this recount effort, we’re not attempting to overthrow Donald Trump, and I don’t expect that will be the outcome.”
Instead, she said she picked the three states where the vote was the closest to ensure the integrity of the election.
“We don’t have a smoking gun that there was voter fraud going on here,” she said. “But we do not have to prove that there was fraud to justify the need for a voting system that we have confidence in.”
People in Michigan are clamoring to help. A request for volunteers to be observers during a recount in the state elicited hundreds of responses in the last two days.
The prospect for fraud in Michigan’s voting system is unlikely because the system is not connected to the Internet, and the state does operate with paper ballots that can be recounted, state election officials said.