For Immediate Release: Tuesday, December 6, 2016
In Michigan: Trump, GOP Politicians Launch Full-Scale Attack to Obstruct Voters’ Civil, Constitutional Rights
Recount Exposing Modern-Day ‘Electoral Jim Crow’
Stein, Experts: Federal Court Order Requires Michigan Recount to Continue, in Spite of State Court Rulings
(Lansing, Michigan) – The Trump campaign and GOP state politicians in Michigan have launched an all-out effort to deny Michigan voters of their constitutional right to have their votes counted in the presidential election, the Stein campaign said Tuesday amid escalating legal battles in state and federal court. The desperate attacks from Trump and Michigan’s Republican Attorney General, Bill Schuette, come in spite of the fact that the Michigan Board of Canvassers is moving forward with the recount, following an order Monday from a U.S. federal judge that the recount “must continue until further order of this court,” citing voters’ constitutional rights.
“Donald Trump and GOP allies in Michigan are launching an attack against the recount, and attempting to strip the constitutional and civil rights of Michigan voters who are demanding that their voices be heard,” said Dr. Jill Stein, 2016 Green Party candidate for president, whose campaign is leading the nation’s first-ever multi-state presidential recount. “In addition to verifying the reliability of our voting machines, this recount has begun to expose a modern-day electoral Jim Crow. Hand counting the ballots has revealed many irregularities and red flags about the quality and maintenance of voting technology, the handling of ballots, and other aspects of election administration in communities of color. This raises serious questions about whether historically marginalized communities have been massively disenfranchised during this election.”
On Monday, a federal judge in Michigan granted the Stein campaign’s emergency request to immediately start the statewide recount. Writing in an opinion issued just after midnight on Monday, December 5, U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith said that: “The fundamental right invoked by plaintiffs – the right to vote, and to have that vote conducted fairly and counted accurately – is the bedrock of our nation.” Leaving little room for doubt, the Judge added: “Such uncertainty shows that there is a credible threat to the voters’ right to have a determination made that Michigan’s vote for president was properly tabulated.”
Legal fights in Michigan come as reports suggest that as many as half of Detroit votes – and many more in surrounding urban areas – may be 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. These irregularities are further eroding confidence in Michigan’s vote – as explicit sloppiness at election sites and potentially deliberate interference with ballots is allowing the state to claim that verifying the vote is impossible.
The problems also raise additional questions about overall accuracy of Michigan’s vote. Daniel Baxter, elections director for the city of Detroit, blamed the discrepancies on the city’s decade-old voting machines, noting that a shocking 87 optical scanners in Detroit broke on Election Day. According to a U.S. Civil Rights Commission report, 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 city of Detroit is in contact with state elections officials in order to re-open the ballot boxes to ensure that the poll books match the accurate number of ballots casts.
“By blocking the recount and suppressing exposure of these problems, Donald Trump and his cronies are not just perpetuating, but actively defending the disenfranchisement of people of color,” added Stein, “This recount is protecting the hard-fought, hard-won civil and voting rights of all Americans. We will not back down from that fight.”
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.
“What’s going on in Detroit, Flint and other urban communities of color right now is exactly why we desperately need recounts in Michigan in the first place. We call on the federal courts to play their historical role and step in to protect the constitutional voting rights of all Americans, especially when they are under attack,” added Stein. “The fact that there are discrepancies between voting machines and precinct tallies – that there are more than 75,000 under-votes – this is evidence that there is a real possibility the rights of voters in Michigan may have been suppressed during this election.”
Trump and state politicians have launched an unprecedented attack on these constitutional rights, even while the recount commenced and is moving forward. In the last 24 hours in Michigan:
- Federal Circuit Court Appeal: Trump and state GOP politicians filed Tuesday a federal appeal of District Judge Goldsmith’s order in the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing that voters in Michigan do not have a constitutional right to a recount and threatening to throw into chaos recounts already underway in dozens of counties. Attorney General Schuette is attempting to join the federal appeal, insisting that state courts have the power to stop the recount. The GOP is also asking for an "en banc" review of the district court order by all the judges of the 6th Circuit in Cincinnati (rather than the standard three three-judge panel).
- State Court Appeal: The Michigan Court of Appeals – a three-member Republican bench – is expected to hear consolidated lawsuits from Trump and Attorney General Schuette on Tuesday at 4 PM, as Republicans attempt to halt Michigan’s recount on the grounds that Stein’s petition is “technically deficient” and because Stein “has no possible opportunity to earn Michigan’s electoral votes.”
However, the majority of experts agree that the ruling from District Judge Goldsmith effectively “ties the hands” of Michigan State Courts to stop the recount, even as the Michigan Court of Appeals will hear arguments Tuesday that the recount should be overturned on technical grounds. State courts in Michigan simply cannot order an issue that is inconsistent with an order from federal court, Robert Sedler, a leading constitutional law expert recently told the Detroit Free Press. "It's all a matter of federal supremacy. It’s pretty basic.”
For their part, Trump and the Attorney General seemingly understand the federal court’s supremacy, which is why they simultaneously filed an emergency motion in the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati to “stay” the district’s court order, asking that the recount already underway be stopped. But the recount is moving forward, with Michigan Elections Director Chris Thomas working swiftly and in tandem with local officials, pushing for a hand-recount of the 4.9 million ballots, rather than just using machines. Even Republican Governor Rick Snyder has encouraged election officials to conduct the recount “promptly.”
Meanwhile, Republican legislators are using their power to deter the recount efforts, and trying to make deeply unfair changes to the rules that would affect the recount in process. The Republican-controlled House Elections Committee approved legislation on Tuesday that would require any candidate that lost by more than five percent who seeking a recount to cover 100% of the costs. The bill is written so that if it passes, it will apply to Jill Stein’s campaign retroactively.
The Stein campaign continues to aggressively fight back against these unprecedented efforts to stop the recount, moving Tuesday to disqualify two Michigan Supreme Court justices from hearing cases related to the recount. Chief Justice Robert Young Jr. and Justice Joan Larsen have been mentioned by Donald Trump as potential nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court, and their involvement in the case would create an appearance of impropriety. “[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 Tuesday.