Federal Judge who ordered Michigan to begin its recount effectively ended it on Wednesday, tying his decision to a state court ruling that found Green Party candidate Jill Stein had no legal standing to request another look at ballots.
The order came after two days of ballot recounting, conflicting court decisions and legal wranglings between lawyers over the hand recount of 4.8 million ballots cast for president in Michigan.
In his eight-page opinion, U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith said “there is no basis” for him to ignore a state court ruling that said the recount should never had started.
He was referring to the Michigan Court of Appeals unanimous ruling, which said that Stein, who requested the recount, never had a shot at winning with her fourth-place finish and one per cent of the vote, and therefore was not an aggrieved candidate.
“To date, plaintiffs have not presented evidence of tampering or mistake. Instead, they present speculative claims going to the vulnerability of the voting machinery — but not actual injury,” Goldsmith wrote, adding the potential for fraud is not enough to continue to allow the recount to proceed.
“It is at least arguable that the Michigan Legislature intended to confine costly and disruptive recounts to cases where a losing candidate stood a reasonable chance of changing the outcome of the election,” Goldsmith wrote.
Goldsmith did, however, note that Stein raised “serious” issues.
“The vulnerability of our system of voting poses the threat of a potentially devastating attack on the integrity of our election system,” Goldsmith wrote, stressing that a potential threat alone does not justify a recount.
Stein’s lawyers vowed an appeal, noting one has already been made with the Michigan Supreme Court.
Stein’s recount request questioned 75,000 ballots, on which Michigan voters did not vote for anyone for president, which was almost double the amount of Michigan ballots with no presidential votes in 2012, which raised suspicions, Stein’s lawyers said.
“We are deeply disappointed in Judge Goldsmith’s ruling today, which gives deference to partisan state judges in Michigan who are attempting to block the state’s recount simply because of the person who made the request, without regard for the integrity of Michigan’s electoral system,” Stein’s lawyers, Hayley Horowitz and Jessica Clarke said in a statement.
“The history of this country is one where federal courts step in to protect the constitutional voting rights of all Americans, especially when they are under attack in the states.
“Well today, they are under brutal attack. Backed by Michigan Republicans, Donald Trump – who himself has repeatedly alleged widespread voter fraud and a ‘rigged election’ – suddenly sees no need for a routine verification of the democratic process in Michigan.
“His efforts to suppress the vote count is a stunning about-face, even by Trump’s own standards. By stopping the recount in Michigan, Trump and Michigan Republicans are explicitly stripping the constitutional rights of Michigan voters straight from under them.
“Worse, they are continuing to undermine confidence in the American political system by denying voters a chance to be reassured that the election results were accurate … But make no mistake, we are not backing down from this fight,” they said.
After the hearing, Stein said that so far, the recount appears to be exposing problems with Michigan’s election process, particularly in low-income, minority communities.
However, the Republican Party apparently convinced Goldsmith that the recount would have cost taxpayers too much money – five million dollars by one count – if he had ruled otherwise.
Michigan Republican Party Chairman, Ronna McDaniel, praised the ruling as a “victory for the taxpayers and voters of Michigan who can be assured that their vote will count when the state’s electors meet on Dec. 19.
“The courts have affirmed the stance the campaign has maintained from day one: Jill Stein, who received only 1.07 per cent of the vote in Michigan, is not legally entitled to hijack the will of voters and drag them into an arduous and expensive publicity stunt,” McDaniel said.
In addition to Michigan, Stein is also seeking recounts in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — battleground states that have voted Democratic in recent elections but shifted to Republican in 2016.
If recounts resulted in all three states flipping to Democrat Hillary Clinton from Trump, Clinton would win the presidency.
However, Stein had said she did not expect to change the election outcome, but wanted to test the integrity of voting systems.
In Michigan, Trump defeated Clinton by 10,704 votes; the ruling seals his narrow victory over her for Michigan’s16 electoral votes.
It was the Goldsmith’s midnight ruling Monday that started the recount in Michigan.
More than 20 of 83 counties were already counting ballots again.
They reported minor changes in vote totals, although many precincts could not be examined for a second time for a variety of reasons.
Earlier on Wednesday, the Michigan elections board voted 3-1 to end the recount if Goldsmith extinguished his earlier order.