For Immediate Release: Thursday, December 8 2016
Michigan Voters, Stein Campaign Decry Unprecedented Attack on Voting Rights in Michigan from Trump, State Republicans
Stopping Recount Severely and Disproportionately Disenfranchises Communities of Color
At Rally, Supporters Demand MI Supreme Court Restart Recount and Protect Voting Rights
(Lansing, Michigan) – Outraged by last night’s decision to shut down the recount, Michigan voters across the state demanded that the state Supreme Court fulfill its duty to uphold the rights of Michigan citizens and consider an appeal filed by the Stein campaign yesterday to continue Michigan’s recount. Protesters gathered in front of the Supreme Court in Lansing to call for reforms to Michigan’s broken voting system, arguing that the numerous irregularities uncovered during the recount provide significant evidence that voters in Michigan – particularly in communities of color – may have been massively disenfranchised.
“What is going on in Michigan is a national disgrace. We will not stand by while Donald Trump and state Republicans shamefully attack our democracy and undermine our constitutional and civil rights,” said Lou Novak, a Detroit resident and recount volunteer who spoke to supporters at rally in Lansing this afternoon. “The discrepancies we’ve discovered while counting votes thus far are precisely the reason we need a recount in the first place. We will not back down from this fight now – no matter what it takes. The Michigan Supreme Court must do its job and re-start the recount.”
In three days since the recount began, numerous irregularities and red flags surrounding the integrity of Michigan’s election have surfaced. Reports suggest that as many as half of Detroit votes – and many more in surrounding urban areas – were ineligible for a recount due to an antiquated state law that says a precinct cannot be recounted if the poll book and ballot box numbers fail to match. In 392 of 662 precincts in heavily Democratic Detroit, or 59 percent, the number of ballots in precinct poll books did not initially match those of voting machines printout reports. As the Detroit Free Press summed it in a headline Tuesday: “The list of problem precincts continues to grow during Michigan’s recount.”
It was also revealed that in Detroit alone, a shocking 87 voting machines broke on Election Day, many jamming when voters fed ballots into optical scanners resulting in erroneous vote counts. Daniel Baxter, elections director for the city of Detroit, told the Detroit News that the discrepancies were due to the city’s decade-old voting machines, saying the situation was “not good.” These revelations are in line with substantial research, including a U.S. Civil Rights Commission report, that finds that voters of color are at massively increased risk of having their votes misread or simply tossed out by human error or by badly maintained and poorly calibrated machines in underserved communities.
“The recount in Michigan has begun to expose a modern-day electoral Jim Crow,” said Jill Stein, 2016 Green Party presidential, whose campaign initiated the Michigan recount, along with similar recounts in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. “The blame and outrage lies with Democrats and Republicans alike – Hillary Clinton, for not conceding but instead capitulating and being silent in response to voters’ demands for a recount; as well as Donald Trump, for not just perpetuating, but actively defending the disenfranchisement of people of color. We will not stand for it. We will fight harder than ever before to protect the constitutional and civil rights of all Americans. Our democracy depends on it.”
The widespread outrage follows a decision last night from U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith lifting his emergency order that set into motion Michigan’s statewide recount. The Judge affirmed his earlier decision that uncertainty in Michigan’s election represented “a credible threat” to the “fundamental right to vote, and to have that vote conducted fairly and counted accurately,” but said that federal court could not “ignore the Michigan court’s ruling and make an independent judgment regarding what the Michigan Legislature intended.” The Judge wrote in the decision: “The issues that plaintiffs raise are serious indeed. The vulnerability of our system of voting poses the threat of a potentially devastating attack on the integrity of our election system.”
"We are deeply disappointed in Judge Goldsmith's ruling, 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,” said Hayley Horowitz and Jessica Clarke, the Stein campaign's lead lawyers in Michigan. “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 in Michigan from Donald Trump and state Republicans.”
Meanwhile, Michigan Republicans’ efforts to suppress voting rights are not limited to their obstruction to the recount. Despite zero evidence of voter fraud in the state, House Republicans on Wednesday night approved a strict voter identification proposal over strenuous objections that the plan could disenfranchise properly registered voters. The legislation requires legally registered voters who forget their photo identification when they go to vote to have to use a provisional ballot. Those ballots would be held aside and not counted unless the person goes to their local clerk’s office with their photo identification and proves who they are within 10 days.
There were 75,335 “under-votes” in Michigan, which are ballots that are filled out except for the vote for President—70 percent higher than the number in 2012. Many of these are in Oakland and Wayne Counties, which include Detroit, raising the very real possibility that communities of color may have been disenfranchised by an unreliable counting of the votes. The number of under-votes exceeds by several-fold Trump's margin of victory in the state.
“America's voting machines and optical scanners are prone to errors and susceptible to outside manipulation,” said J. Alex Halderman, one of the nation’s leading cyber security experts and a Professor of Computer Science at the University of Michigan, who also spoke at this afternoon’s rally in Lansing. “That's precisely why we need this recount – to examine the physical evidence, to look under the hood. A recount is the best way, and indeed the only way in 2016, to ensure public confidence that the results are accurate, authentic, and untainted by outside interference.”
The Stein campaign is aggressively fighting back against these unprecedented efforts to stop the recount, filing an appeal with the Michigan Supreme Court Wednesday and moving to disqualify two Michigan Supreme Court justices from hearing cases related to the recount. Chief Justice Robert Young Jr. and Justice Joan Larsen were both included in a list of 20 candidates for U.S. Supreme Court that Donald Trump has released and committed to select his first Supreme Court nominee from. “[Both justices] have a substantial personal and professional interest in the election of Trump as president and in conducting themselves in a way which is favorable to him and/or hostile to, among others, other candidates for president," wrote Mark Brewer, a lawyer for the Stein campaign, in a court filing.