The Board of State Canvassers has certified Republican Donald Trump’s victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton by a margin of some 10,700 votes in the Nov. 8, 2016 general election. Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Party nominee Jill Stein trailed well behind, with some 5% of the vote between them.
Now Jill Stein claims she’s raised millions of dollars from throughout the USA to pay for a challenge of the Michigan results. She says she’ll request a recount. Very quickly, here’s the likely scenario:
— Former Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Mark Brewer, who represented Stein before the Board of State Canvassers meeting on Monday, Nov. 28, says Stein will file her recount request by Wednesday, Nov. 30.
— The State of Michigan has no basis to unilaterally deny Stein’s request, regardless of how unlikely it might be that a recount would find that the Nov. 8 certified results were wrong and that Trump was not the winner. The Board has delegated any recount responsibility to Secretary of State Ruth Johnson. If Stein meets the recount cost up estimated at nearly $800,000 up front, Johnson is prepared to launch a recount as early as this Friday, Dec. 2, and continue until it’s completed unless ordered by a court decision to stop.
— However, Trump could challenge Stein’s request for a recount, assuming that she makes the deposit of money required. He could do it to Johnson or the State Board, or in court, or both. If he does, either Johnson or the Board of State Canvassers could reschedule an emergency meeting to deal with Trump’s challenge. The Board consists of four members, two ostensible Republicans and two ostensible Democrats. As most Michigan political observers know, these four often split evenly, 2-2, on highly political decisions. It’s likely they will in this instance, too. If they do, tie goes to Stein — the Republican canvassers need three votes to uphold Trump’s argument. But it doesn’t really matter who wins at the Board level (or with Johnson) — the loser will almost certainly go to the courts to appeal the decision.
— How long might this drag out? The Electoral College meets Dec. 19. Will the election controversy in Michigan be resolved by then? (we won’t speculate about Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, where much the same scenario is playing out). Michigan election officials are ransacking federal statutes to see if there is a Dec. 13 deadline for completing a recount — six days before the election. It really doesn’t make any difference — state election officials think they can get the job done well before that date unless their efforts are halted by court fiat.
— What happens if this imbroglio drags out for so long that the Dec. 19 deadline can’t be met? The U.S. Supreme Court might well be required to step in, as it did back in 2000. Alternatively, the whole shootin’-match could end up in the U.S. House of Representatives. Given the heavy GOP majority in Congress, that would be good news for Donald Trump.
In the meantime, Michigan election officials estimate that the recount Stein is demanding will likely cost well over $1 million, and that any extra costs above the $125 per precinct stipend authorized by state law will likely have to be borne by Michigan’s 83 counties.
That’s not likely to make local governments very happy with Stein, the Clinton campaign whose lawyers are abetting Stein’s effort, or Michigan Democrats who are in full view under the whip of ex-party chief Brewer.