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After Trump Objection Fails, Michigan Heads Toward Presidential Recount

Barring court action, Michigan will hold a recount of the presidential election after state officials did not approve an attempt from President-elect Donald Trump to block the recount effort on Friday.
People wait to cast their ballot at Oakman Elementary School in the US presidential election on November 8, 2016 in Dearborn, Michigan. / AFP PHOTO / JEFF KOWALSKYJEFF KOWALSKY/AFP/Getty ImagesJEFF KOWALSKY / AFP - Getty Images

LANSING, Mich. — Barring court action, Michigan will hold a recount of the presidential election after state officials did not approve an attempt from President-elect Donald Trump to block the recount effort on Friday.

“Right now, yes, we’re on track for a recount,” Michigan Director of Elections Chris Thomas told NBC News after lawyers argued over Trump’s effort to block a recount from proceeding in front of the Board of State Canvassers.

Trump’s objection ultimately failed as the board, made up of two Democrats and two Republicans, split 2-2 along party lines.

“I believe we are now having a recount, and it will be done by paper ballot,” said Democratic board member Julie Matuzak at the end of the vote on the objection, which was filed Thursday.

Attorneys Gary Gordon and John Pirich argued on behalf of Trump and his presidential campaign that former Green Party presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein’s petition for a recount should be invalidated.

“Being disappointed in the results is not aggrieved,” Gordon said. He argued that a fourth place-finishing candidate such as Stein had no reason to believe that a recount would change her fate in the election.

Michigan certified its election results on November 28, showing Trump beating Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton 2,279,543 votes to 2,268,83 votes. Stein captured just 51,463 votes.

Trump’s attorneys worked to convince the room Stein had not been aggrieved while emphasizing the cost of a recount for the state’s taxpayers.

“If you have no evidence of wrongdoing…why should we impose a $5 million charge on the state of Michigan?” asked Gordon. While there is no determined cost yet, state officials estimate the recount could cost the state more than $4 million.

“This is not a petition for a recount, this is a statement,” later asserted Pirich, referring to the brevity of and lack of details in the original petition filed by Stein’s lawyers on November 30th. Pirich said the petition should be “disqualified,” consistent with the Trump objection filed on December 1.

Stein attorney Mark Brewer argued primarily that because his client’s petition was filed appropriately and within the allotted timeframe, the Trump team’s arguments were “legally irrelevant” to the question of if the recount should be blocked.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette filed a Friday morning lawsuit to try to stop the recount in court.

“The Attorney General…asks this court to immediately issue a writ of mandamus to prohibit the recount because Stein is not an aggrieved candidate,” read the lawsuit provided to NBC News.

“If the court enjoins us from moving forward, then we’re enjoined and it won’t go forward,” said Thomas.

The board brought up a separate motion to count the votes using tabulation machines instead of hand counting as is precedent in Michigan, but that vote too failed in a deadlocked 2-2 vote.

Thomas argued that hand counting the ballots will actually be faster than using machines.

“The hand recount will beat the machine every day,” Thomas told NBC News.

Speed is important to all sides, as the federal deadline for states to complete their recounts is December 13, ahead of the state electors convening on December 19th to cast their Electoral College votes. Thomas suggested it is possible to meet the deadline.

If there is no court action, the recount is scheduled to begin sometime between Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning of next week.

MI certified their results on November 28 with these results:

  • Trump won with 2,279,543 votes
  • Clinton came in second with 2,268,839 votes
  • Stein came in fourth with 51,463 votes