New Michigan law makes recounts tougher for big losers

Posted at 6:11 PM, May 03, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-03 18:11:15-04

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Political candidates who lose big in Michigan won’t be able to seek a recount under a new law that Republican Gov. Rick Snyder signed Thursday, shutting down the possibility of a review like the one instigated by Green Party candidate Jill Stein after the 2016 presidential election.

The new law requires candidates to prove they have a reasonable chance of victory before they can get a recount. Snyder also signed a law doubling the fees for recount requests from candidates who trail by more than 5 percentage points after the initial tally. Previously, candidates had to allege fraud or a mistake to petition for a recount and pay the state $125 per precinct.

The push to change Michigan’s election laws arose from the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election, when Stein triggered a recount after Republican Donald Trump beat Democrat Hillary Clinton by 10,704 votes. Stein won 1 percent of Michigan’s vote. Her recount was ultimately halted after a state appeals court ruled that her portion of the vote didn’t qualify her as “aggrieved.”

The new changes will be in place for the November midterm elections, when the governor’s seat and multiple U.S. House and Senate seats will be up for grabs.

“The last election cycle just brought to light something with our election law in Michigan that could be exploited,” said bill sponsor state Rep. Jim Lilly, a Republican from Park Township. “I didn’t want to see somebody taking advantage of that again for basically political gain.”

Some Democrats opposed Lilly’s bill, saying it would limit opportunities to question the integrity of an election. Back in 2016, Stein’s Michigan recall campaign spurred widespread confusion over voting irregularities found in over one-third of Detroit precincts. Since then, Michigan’s secretary of state announced manual election audits will debut during this year’s midterms.

Snyder also signed other election laws that establish a procedure for ordering new absentee ballots in the event of a mistaken or lost ballot, require that Michigan’s qualified voter list be compared with the federal Social Security program’s death records, and enact a narrower list of alternatives for voters who don’t have a driver’s license or state identification.

The voter ID restrictions were already in place under Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, a Republican, but her successor this November will now have to abide by them as well.

“Fair and accurate elections are the cornerstone of our democracy and this legislation will ensure Michigan maintains the most up-to-date voting records,” Snyder said Thursday.

Republican-controlled Wisconsin, which Trump also narrowly won and where Stein also requested a recount, has already passeda law restricting future recount requests.