Counties prepare for ‘huge task’ of recount; Republicans say it could cost $12M

Posted at 5:33 PM, Nov 29, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-29 17:42:17-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — County clerks say they are scrambling to prepare for a looming statewide election recount—the first in the state in more than half a century—that could begin within the next 72 hours and cost taxpayers more than $12 million, Republicans argue.

Green Party candidate Jill Stein—who has already been granted a recount in Wisconsin—promised on Monday her campaign would be filing a request to challenge the vote count in Michigan. The request must be submitted by Wednesday afternoon, which her campaign indicated would happen.

Kent County Clerk Mary Hollinrake says her team isn't waiting for the recount request to starting planning.

"There’s too much work needed behind the scenes to wait until the last moment to get ready," Hollinrake told FOX 17 on Tuesday, just 24 hours after being alerted about the potential for a recount by the state.

"We have to look at 300,000 ballots… It’s a huge task."

The county not only needs to find a venue large enough for the recount, but also expects to hire upwards of 50 workers—existing area clerks and precinct workers—for the tedious job of hand counting ballots cast in Kent's 490 precincts.

"We’re working through the weekends, 8-12 hours days," she said. "They’re not leaving for lunch, we have to cater all the food.”

Hollinrake said the venue will likely need to be the size of a school gymnasium—large enough to fit 30-40 long tables that seat between four and eight people.

"That table has to accommodate all the ballots for a precinct and the watchers because each candidate can have someone there," she said, in addition to two state-level canvass workers required to be at each table.

County officials in neighboring Ottawa are similarly preparing; looking for a large venue while expecting to hire 30-40 workers to county roughly 140,000 ballots.

"The expectation is once we start we won’t be stopping until it’s done," said Steven Daitch, the county's elections coordinator. "All of our staff involved, all the workers helping us out, are all folks who had vacations planned that they’re cancelling or coming back from."

In addition to the extra time workers will spend on the recount, counties expect to spend extra money beyond what the state will reimburse for such an event.

The Stein campaign, which is expected to request the recount, will be on the hook to pay roughly $800,000. However, state and local election officials anticipate the final cost could exceed $900,000, leaving taxpayers to make up the difference.

On Tuesday, Michigan Republicans claimed the request for a hand recount could cost taxpayers up to $12 million, a dozen times what Stein will have to pay.

GOP attorney Eric Doster, who will help represent President-elect Donald Trump's campaign in the recount, said he can't imagine the recount costing less than $10 to $12 million — the cost of a statewide election.

Republicans cite "astronomical" costs of overtime pay, training, security and travel.

Michigan GOP Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel declines to say if Republicans will challenge the recount or take legal action, saying Stein hasn't yet made her request.

Campaigns requesting recounts are charged $125 per precinct, under state recount rules, which is reimbursed to counties. Hollinrake says she expected Kent County to receive more than $61,000 in reimbursements. Daitch says he expected Ottawa County to receive a state reimbursement of more than $13,000.

Once a request is filed Trump can challenge it, which would stop the recount and push the deadline past the Dec. 19 Electoral College vote.

The Associated Press contributed to this report