Federal judge clears way to end Michigan recount

New York Times News Service

Three days into a recount of Michigan’s presidential votes, a federal judge issued a ruling late Wednesday that cleared the way to end it.

The judge, Mark A. Goldsmith, who had ordered the new count to begin Monday as part of a temporary restraining order focused on timing, removed his order late Wednesday. But the legal maneuvering appeared far from over. Representatives for Jill Stein, the Green Party’s presidential nominee, who has called for recounts in three states, said they intended to pursue other legal avenues in Michigan.

Seeking new vote counts in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, Stein, who finished a distant fourth in the presidential race, has cited concerns about computer hacking and the reliability of voting machines. Her effort has set off legal fights with lawyers for President-elect Donald Trump, his campaign and his allies, who view the recounts as a needless and expensive tactic.

Even as county officials in Michigan rushed this week to recount votes in borrowed offices and conference centers, the legal battle proceeded in multiple courtrooms simultaneously. A state Court of Appeals decision on Tuesday concurred with complaints from Michigan Republicans that Stein did not meet the state’s legal requirements for a recount as an “aggrieved” party because she had not come close to winning.

On Wednesday night, Goldsmith, of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, did not disagree.

“Because there is no basis for this court to ignore the Michigan court’s ruling and make an independent judgment regarding what the Michigan Legislature intended by the term ‘aggrieved,’ plaintiffs have not shown an entitlement to a recount under Michigan’s statutory scheme,” he wrote.

“The issues that plaintiffs raise are serious indeed,” Goldsmith said. “The vulnerability of our system of voting poses the threat of a potentially devastating attack on the integrity of our election system. But invoking a court’s aid to remedy that problem in the manner plaintiffs have chosen — seeking a recount as an audit of the election to test whether the vulnerability led to actual compromise of the voting system — has never been endorsed by any court and would require, at a minimum, evidence of significant fraud or mistake — and not speculative fear of them. Such evidence has not been presented here.”

FILE -- Voters cast their ballots at a voting precinct on Election Day in Flint, Mich., Nov. 8, 2016. Dueling court rulings have left the fate of a presidential vote recount in Michigan uncertain, and elections officials in the state said they were “seeking clarity about the next steps.” (Brittany Greeson/The New York Times)

Stein’s lawyers said they were disappointed with Goldsmith’s ruling but had no intention of giving up.

“Our campaign will seek immediate relief in Michigan’s Supreme Court to ensure the recount that is already underway in all Michigan counties continues,” the lawyers said in a statement. “With so many irregularities in Michigan — including more than 75,000 under-votes, many in urban areas, and widespread carelessness, and perhaps interference, with preserving ballots — there is a real possibility the rights of voters in Michigan may have been suppressed during this election.”