Okay What Is Actually Going On With All The Recounts

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A month after the the 2016 election, recount efforts are underway to varying degrees in several states of the US, requested by the Green Party and joined by the Clinton campaign in some states. Although the recount results aren’t expected to change the results of the election, they’ve still been opposed by the GOP and even Donald Trump personally; most recently, the Michigan recount has been stopped by a federal judge. Here’s what’s happening with recounts in various states.


In Michigan, the same federal judge that initially granted the recount permission to go forward, has removed the order, effectively canceling the recount for now. Judge Goldsmith concurred with Michigan Republicans in saying that Stein isn’t an “aggrieved party” — that is, that her personal margin of loss as a Presidential candidate wasn’t small enough to be changed by a recount, so she doesn’t have legal standing to ask for a recount — and also that there isn’t enough evidence of voting irregularities to merit a recount, saying the Stein camp would need to show “evidence of significant fraud or mistake — and not speculative fear of them.” Stein’s campaign says they are “disappointed with Judge Goldsmith’s ruling but had no intention of giving up,” and are seeking next steps to take legally. Protestors plan to gather outside the Michigan High Court today to protest putting a stop to the recount.

At the same time, in Detroit up to 392 precincts are reporting voting discrepancies, with the number of ballots recorded in precinct poll books not matching voting machine printout reports.

“It’s not good,” conceded Daniel Baxter, elections director for the city of Detroit. He blamed the discrepancies on the city’s decade-old voting machines, saying 87 optical scanners broke on Election Day. Many jammed when voters fed ballots into scanners, which can result in erroneous vote counts if ballots are inserted multiple times. Poll workers are supposed to adjust counters to reflect a single vote but in many cases failed to do so, causing the discrepancies, Baxter said.

These ballot problems actually disqualify many of the precincts in question from a recount; especially if the Stein campaign doesn’t find a way to legally continue the recount, an accurate understanding of what happened with the voting machines in those areas may never come.


In Wisconsin, the recount effort is about 70% complete, and so far Trump’s lead hasn’t shifted significantly. The recount is supposed to be wrapped up by Monday for local officials and Tuesday for the state. Officials there say that stories of observers witnessing double vote-counting and machine tampering were false, and that the uncounted votes that have been found so far (492 for Clinton, 410 for Trump, 60 for Stein) were mostly attributable to human error.

One question that’s persisted in the WI recount is machine counting vs. hand counting — the Stein and Clinton campaigns have asked for a judicial order to make all WI counties count their votes by hand, but it was denied, so it’s up to individual counties to decide whether they want to do their recounts by hand or machine. The concern is that if voting machines were malfunctioning on election night, they’ll also malfunction during the recount. Chris Sautter, election attorney, argues that Stein and Clinton’s campaigns should file a federal lawsuit for all recounts to be done by hand in WI. WaPo argues that unless an individual machine is majorly malfunctioning, machine recounts are statistically more accurate than hand recounts.


In Pennsylvania, a federal judge will be holding a hearing for Green Party lawyers tomorrow (Friday) on a recount and examination of Pennsylvania’s voting machines. Previously GOP officials and Trump had vehemently opposed the PA recount, claiming that it would put the state past the Dec. 13th deadline for election certification. They seem to have changed their minds very quickly, however, and PA GOP spokesperson Megan Sweeney now says “The Republican Party of Pennsylvania is 100 percent confident that the election results will be certified in time.” It’s possible that the blocking of the Michigan recount has made them more confident, or it could be another reason entirely.


Independent candidate Roque De La Fuente has paid for a recount of a sampling of ballots in Nevada, which should be done by Friday. If a discrepancy of 1% or more is suggested for De La Fuente or Clinton, it will trigger a full recount in Nevada.

Currently there’s no recount effort underway in Florida, but three private citizens have sued to request one, asking for a hand recount of all paper ballots. The lawyer for the suit readily acknowledges that the state and the GOP can totally ignore the request, but hopes that their suit will add to general pressure on integrity of elections. De La Fuente has also stated that he’s interested in “spot checking” Florida.

Jill Stein’s website has opportunities to volunteer for the recount efforts in WI, PA and MI (volunteer observers can be of any political party, not just Greens).

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Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

Rachel has written 1142 articles for us.


  1. Why sue to stop a recount when we’re so certain about the integrity of the system?

    Beyond that, though–why we don’t have elections that are auditable and audited is beyond me. DREs (machines with no paper record) need to go, and audits need to be routine. Aaand all of this needed to be put in place 15 years ago. Whoops.

  2. Thanks for putting this together, Rachel. Still seems to me that unless they’re recounting by hand, it’s all a waste of time and money, and is just going to further empower Trump when he’s certified the winner even after the recount. But I guess it’s better to do something, right? But damn, all that money going into the recounts when it could be going towards actually helping people who are going to be most affected by this new administration…

  3. Thank you so much for updating me about this. I appreciate it. I am glad people are asking for a recount. I hope something good comes from this process, and I think something good will come from this.

  4. USA is starting to look & sound like a banana republic with all this recount nonsense. Trump won, get over it. That recount fee could save more jobs ?

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