Michigan board deadlocks, recount on ... for now

Get ready for the Michigan recount — but don’t necessarily bet on it. The Michigan board responsible for elections rejected a challenge from Donald Trump to Jill Stein’s recount request. That clears the way for the recount to start next week, the Detroit Free Press reports this afternoon … unless a court steps in to stop it:

Michigan’s Board of State Canvassers deadlocked 2-2, along party lines, Friday, on President-elect Donald Trump’s objection to Green Party candidate Jill Stein’s request for a recount of all presidential ballots cast in Michigan, meaning a hand recount of Michigan’s presidential ballots could begin late Tuesday or early Wednesday.

Despite the delayed start, Elections Director Chris Thomas said he still hopes all 4.8 million ballots can be recounted. He said he doubts the Dec. 13 deadline that has been frequently cited is a “real deadline,” and Michigan may have until Dec. 17 — two days before the electoral college is set to meet — to complete its recount, though he is still researching that point.

That only addresses Trump’s formal objection, filed yesterday. That read more like a court request for an injunction, and that might be exactly what it becomes after this action. They have time to take the board to court to stop the recount before it begins on Tuesday, so don’t be surprised to see them take that opportunity.

This decision does nothing to stop the courts from taking action on the lawsuit filed this morning by the state’s Attorney General, however. Bill Schuette’s action argues that Stein is abusing the law by demanding a recount in an election that she herself has no hope of winning, but also that the recount harms Michigan by potentially keeping its delegation from voting in the Electoral College on December 19th.

That’s why Thomas made the comment that the deadline for getting a recount done is more like 15 days away rather than 11, but a judge might want a lot more certainty than that. The purpose of the election is to determine who won the state and to have its vote represented in the Electoral College, not to make sure Jill Stein or any other fourth-place finisher has an extra moment in the sun. A balancing of potential harms will certainly put Michigan voters ahead of Jill Stein’s ego. Or, one should certainly hope that’s the case.

For that reason, the Schuette lawsuit is probably the likeliest avenue to shut down the Stein effort. Trump’s complaint raises some good points about the nature of “aggrieved,” but he’s representing himself — and it’s hard to come up with an injury to Trump outside of the minuscule chance that the vote might change so much that he’d lose the state. The real issue is the potential harm to Michigan voters, and Schuette’s best positioned to make that argument.