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Oakland County clerks count election ballots during a recount of presidential ballots in Waterford Township, Michigan. (Photo: Reuters)

Michigan Recount Marred by Partisanship, Legal Battles, Broken Machines

'Partisan attempts to halt a good-faith effort to ensure all votes have been counted fairly should be met with intense skepticism'

Deirdre Fulton, staff writer

The election recount in Michigan is off to a rocky start, marred by ongoing legal challenges and broken polling machines.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, a Republican who "lashed out" Tuesday at the federal judge who ordered the state's recount to begin Monday, plans to "aggressively argue to stop the recount" at a hearing Tuesday afternoon, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Both Schuette and President-elect Donald Trump have sued in state court to stop the recount, and a hearing on their suits is scheduled for 4pm Tuesday in the Michigan Court of Appeals in Lansing. Separately, the Free Press reports, "[t]he Michigan Republican Party filed emergency motions this morning with the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, asking for a stay of [the judge]'s order and a review of the order by a full panel of all 6th Circuit judges, rather than a three-judge panel that is normally used."

In the past 72 hours, over 100,000 members of the national grassroots group Demand Progress have called on Schuette to drop his attempt to block the recount. 

"Schuette's continued efforts to shut down the recount using the power and resources of his office are particular cause for concern," said Demand Progress campaigner Carli Stevenson. "Partisan attempts to halt a good-faith effort to ensure all votes have been counted fairly should be met with intense skepticism."

Meanwhile, broken machines—many of them in heavily Democratic Detroit—threaten to throw the recount into "chaos," as the Guardian put it Tuesday. 

The Detroit News reported:

One-third of precincts in Wayne County could be disqualified from an unprecedented statewide recount of presidential election results because of problems with ballots.

Michigan's largest county voted overwhelmingly for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, but officials couldn’t reconcile vote totals for 610 of 1,680 precincts during a countywide canvass of vote results late last month.

Most of those are in heavily Democratic Detroit, where the number of ballots in precinct poll books did not match those of voting machine printout reports in 59 percent of precincts, 392 of 662.

According to state law, precincts whose poll books don’t match with ballots can't be recounted. If that happens, original election results stand.

Citing Democratic political activist Ernest Johnson, who campaigned for Clinton, the paper pointed out that "[d]isqualifying huge numbers of precincts would make it 'almost impossible' for the former New York senator to make up the votes."

"It's a real long-shot now because, if I were looking for 10,000 votes, the first place I'd look is Wayne County," Johnson said. "That's a huge problem. ... But if anything good comes of this it brings up this problem (with voting machines) that needs to be corrected." also reports Tuesday that the state House Elections Committee approved a bill that could leave the Green Party's Jill Stein, who initiated (and raised money for) the recount in Michigan as well as separate efforts in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, "on the hook for millions of dollars to cover the cost of a Michigan election recount."

According to the newspaper: "All five Republicans on the committee approved moving the bill forward. Democrats Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, and Jon Hoadley, D-Kalamazoo, voted against it and Democrat Gretchen Driskell, D-Saline, abstained."

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