Michigan Recount 2016: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

Donald Trump's final rally before the election was held in Grand Rapids, Michigan at Devos Place. The late night rally began at 11 p.m. and featured Trump and his running mate, Mike Pence. Tomorrow night, Trump will hold an election watch party at the New York Hilton Midtown, beginning at 6:30 p.m. Trump has been crisscrossing the nation campaigning for president, and now the final results are almost here. Click through the gallery to see photos and stories about Trump's last campaign rally. (Getty)

Donald Trump’s final rally before the election was held in Grand Rapids, Michigan at Devos Place. (Getty)

Michigan – the battleground state with one of the closest margins in the country – appears headed toward a 2016 presidential election recount, although the deadline for requesting one is not until November 30.

Green Party nominee Jill Stein has raised more than $5.9 million to fund recounts in three swing states that gave the election to Donald Trump: Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. (Hillary Clinton would need all three states to fall to win the Electoral College, which meets December 19, giving states a tight deadline to complete recounts.)

Trump, who leads in Michigan by only 10,704 votes, called the recount efforts a “scam.” Meanwhile, the Obama administration is defending the election results, according to Politico, saying, “it has seen no evidence of hackers tampering with the 2016 presidential election” and adding, “We stand behind our election results, which accurately reflect the will of the American people.”

Stein has already formally asked for a Wisconsin recount, and one will commence next week. She asked for the Wisconsin recount first because that state’s deadline was November 25. On her fundraising website, Stein says she has now raised the funds for recounts in Wisconsin and Pennsylania, and is urging people to donate money to fund a Michigan recount.


Hillary Clinton’s campaign lawyer said on November 26 that the Democratic Party nominee (the only person likely to benefit if a recount took the states from Trump) would now participate in the recount in Wisconsin and possibly also in Michigan and Pennsylvania. Her campaign said it has extensively investigated claims of election interference and hacking but has found no “actionable” evidence of it. The lawyer, Marc Elias added, “We do so (participate) fully aware that the number of votes separating Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in the closest of these states — Michigan — well exceeds the largest margin ever overcome in a recount.” But he said the campaign wants to ensure the election was fair.

Stein has said she is not taking the actions to help Clinton but rather to verify election integrity.

Pennsylvania’s recount deadline is on November 28, and Stein has not yet requested the recount there or in Michigan. However, it’s in Michigan where the margin is the slimmest and, thus, a recount could theoretically be most successful (although, again, Clinton would need all states to win).

Here’s what you need to know:

1. Michigan’s Ballots Are Paper & Will Be Counted by Hand If a Recount Is Requested

Michigan is one of a series of states that uses paper ballots.

The Detroit Free Press said the recount “will be a monumental task for the Secretary of State and 83 county clerks around Michigan” and that the state will hand count each ballot if a recount is requested.

Michigan’s recount rules say that a candidate “who believes that the canvass of the votes cast on the office may be incorrect because of possible ‘fraud or mistake’ in the precinct returns may petition for a recount of the votes cast in the precincts involved.”

Michigan charges $125 per precinct for a recount. Opposing candidates can “submit objections to the recount request to the Board of County Canvassers,” Michigan’s recount rules say.

In contrast, Wisconsin does not mandate hand counting of ballots and uses a mixture of electronic machines and paper ballots. Pennsylvania is one of a few states to rely almost exclusively on electronic machines without any paper records.

2. The Michigan Race Was So Close the Race Wasn’t Called for Weeks

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Hillary Clinton led a rally today in Detroit, Michigan’s Eastern Market. (Getty)

Stein can not formally ask for a Michigan recount until Monday, November 28 at 2 p.m. because that’s when the state’s results will be certified. Recounts are automatic in Michigan if an election’s margin is under 2,000 votes, the Secretary of State’s office says, but candidates can seek them even if the margin is greater than that.

For weeks, Michigan was a holdout; the Associated Press did not call the race because the margin was so close and a recount was always feasible. As canvassing has progressed, Trump’s lead has eroded by several thousand votes. As of November 26, the Michigan Secretary of State’s office was reporting these results for Michigan:

Donald Trump: 2,279,543
Hillary Clinton: 2,268,839
Gary Johnson: 172,136
Darrell L. Castle: 16,139
Jill Stein: 51,463
Emidio Mimi Soltysik: 2,209

Trump’s margin: 10,704 votes.

That means the state will need to count 4,790,329 votes by hand. Stein’s vote total in Michigan is more than four times Trump’s margin over Clinton.

The spokesman for Michigan’s secretary of state has said it would be unlikely for the election results to change. Fred Woodhams, the spokesman for the Michigan Secretary of State’s office, told Heavy earlier in November, “We have no reason to believe that there are significant numbers of votes that are unaccounted for. All cities and townships in the state (1,500 of them) have reported unofficial vote totals.”

3. Stein’s Campaign Is Concerned About the Difference Between Exit Polls & Actual Results as Well as Under Votes

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Supporters hold signs as Hillary Clinton speaks during a campaign rally at Wayne State University on October 10, 2016 in Detroit, Michigan. (Getty)

Stein’s campaign manager, David Cobb, told the Detroit Free Press that Michigan made the recount list because its margin was so close. New Hampshire actually had a closer margin (Clinton won that state), but Trump did not request a recount there.

Cobb told the newspaper the campaign was concerned that exit polls showed Clinton leading in Michigan and “there was a significant under-vote on Nov. 8, when an estimated 85,000 people cast ballots but did not make a selection in the presidential race.”

Voter participation in Michigan increased over 2012, but the number of undervotes for president increased dramatically. The undervotes rose from 49,840 votes in 2012 to 87,810 in 2016, said MLive. However, this might simply reflect general voter dislike of both major party candidates in an exceptionally divisive election year; MLive says third party voting also jumped, from 1 to 5%. Furthermore, says the site, Clinton did not come close to Barack Obama’s percentages in the urban Detroit area.

Trump managed to shift the allegiances of white working class voters throughout a swath of the Midwest, not just in Michigan, while Clinton did not rally urban voters enough to counter the phenomenon (although she did win the popular vote by more than 2 million.)

Exit polls for Michigan showed the race a tie, a small discrepancy from the final result, but not as great of one as in some other states, including Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, according to TDMSResearch.com.

4. Clinton’s Campaign Has Investigated Possible Hacking of the Election & A Group of Professors & Lawyers Has Raised Election Questions

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Supporters of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and his running mate Indiana Governor Mike Pence wait for the start of a campaign rally on November 7, 2016 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. (Getty)

Clinton has only belatedly joined the recount efforts lodged by Jill Stein and the Green Party. At first, her campaign remained silent on the topic as Stein raised millions in just a few hours.

With the recounts now becoming a reality, and after Stein formally requested one in Wisconsin (which was granted), Clinton’s campaign decided to join in, but her campaign lawyer, Marc Elias, stressed that the recounts were not at Clinton’s initiative.

Elias has acknowledged the difficulty in overturning the election. However, in a post on the site Medium.com, Elias wrote, “It should go without saying that we take these concerns extremely seriously. We certainly understand the heartbreak felt by so many who worked so hard to elect Hillary Clinton, and it is a fundamental principle of our democracy to ensure that every vote is properly counted.”

He added, “This election cycle was unique in the degree of foreign interference witnessed throughout the campaign: the U.S. government concluded that Russian state actors were behind the hacks of the Democratic National Committee and the personal email accounts of Hillary for America campaign officials, and just yesterday, the Washington Post reported that the Russian government was behind much of the ‘fake news’ propaganda that circulated online in the closing weeks of the election.”

The recount efforts kicked into gear after a story appeared in New York Magazine recounting a meeting between a group of professors and lawyers with Clinton’s campaign. The group claims it has found election anomalies in Wisconsin; it says that voters using electronic machines chose Clinton at a lesser rate than those using paper ballots. Elias has said the campaign met with many experts.

However, other experts say demographic variables could account for that difference, not fraud; for example, electronic machines tend to be in rural areas where white working class voters shifted to Trump (a phenomenon seen in other states throughout the Midwest).

Furthermore, Michigan does not use electronic voting machines, so it’s unclear how such paper ballots could possibly be hacked.

There are other reasons that Trump might have prevailed in Michigan, including the state’s demographics and his emphasis on jobs, the economy, and trade.

5. Trump Has Called the Recount Efforts a ‘Scam’ & Michigan Hasn’t Had a Recount in Decades

GRAND RAPIDS, MI - NOVEMBER 08: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump addresses supporters during a campaign rally on November 8, 2016 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. With less than 24 hours until Election Day in the United States, Trump and his opponent, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, are campaigning in key battleground states that each must win to take the White House. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump addresses supporters during a campaign rally on November 8, 2016 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. (Getty)

The Detroit Free Press said Michigan hasn’t had a statewide recount in decades, dating to a daylight savings time referendum and governor’s race election in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Trump had stayed silent on the recount efforts until November 26, when he released a statement calling them a “scam.”

In his most controversial tweet, Trump claimed, without offering any evidence, that millions of people voted illegally in the 2016 presidential election. (Read more about this unproven claim and its possible conspiracy theory origins here.)

“The people have spoken and the election is over, and as Hillary Clinton herself said on election night, in addition to her conceding by congratulating me, ‘We must accept this result and then look to the future,’” Trump said, calling the recount “ridiculous.” Trump also unleashed a slew of tweets saying nothing will change and pointing out that Clinton criticized him during a debate for saying the election was rigged.

His campaign manager Kellyanne Conway told Bloomberg, “What a pack of sore losers. After asking Mr. Trump and his team a million times on the trail, ‘Will HE accept the election results?’ it turns out Team Hillary and her new BFF Jill Stein can’t accept reality.”

Stein was critical of Clinton during the election, and some Democrats have blamed third party candidates for costing Clinton the White House.

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