Local professors, Democrats say recount efforts unlikely to change election results in Michigan

Thursday, December 1, 2016 - 5:01pm

Amid an ongoing recount of Michigan's vote launched by Jill Stein, the former Green Party presidential nominee, University of Michigan professors and local Democrats are saying they think such efforts are highly unlikely to change the results of the election.

The race in Michigan was officially certified for President-elect Donald Trump Monday, with a winning margin of 10,704 votes.

Stein also filed in Wisconsin last week and is currently attempting to file in Pennsylvania, other states Trump won, for a recount.

Stein’s recount efforts are based on a suggestion by a group of researchers — including J. Alex Halderman, University of Michigan professor of electrical engineering and computer science — of potential vote manipulation in the three highly-contested states. She has stated she is aiming to ensure the integrity of the election.

The research team had initially attempted to persuade Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton to ask for a recount. However, the Clinton campaign has not independently sought any recount. It is participating in the efforts initiated by Stein in Wisconsin.  

Political Science Prof. Michael Traugott said there is almost no chance of overturning the results in Michigan, adding that this likely affected the Clinton campaign’s hesitancy to call for a recount.

“I think the chances are zero,” Traugott said. “That is because administering an election is a fairly complicated administrative activity but a set of procedures have been put in place to minimize the chances of error.”

State Republican operatives have challenged the recounts, stating they don't believe there were any problems with the vote count in Michigan. 

On Thursday, Trump's campaign filed an objection to the recount. The objection will put the recount on hold until Friday when the Board of State Canvassers, which is responsible for canvassing and certifying statewide elections, can rule on the issue. 

LSA junior Collin Kelly, chair of the University’s chapter of College Democrats, wrote in an email interview that he does not believe a recount will be effective in changing the election's results.

“While we accept the results of the election, we also understand that recounts are part of the election process,” Kelly wrote. “Increasing transparency and verifying results do not undermine the election or signify doubts about the outcome. Michigan was an extremely close election, and while we don't expect the results to change, we are happy this recount will provide more transparency in the election.”

The University’s chapter of College Republicans didn't respond immediately to a request for comment.

The outcome in all three states Stein is attempting to contest would have to be flipped to Clinton to change the election outcome.

Traugott said that in the unlikely scenario, Trump would have no legal grounds to contest the result further though Clinton has conceded. He said conceding is simply a courtesy given by the candidates, while the presidency goes to whoever gains the support of a minimum of 270 Electoral College voters when they cast their ballots on Dec. 18.

However, Traugott said there will likely be an outcry from individuals who supported Trump.

“If it were the case that it would be overturned, a large group of Trump supporters would be outraged,” he said. “They would go to the streets with demonstrations and protests, but I don’t expect that to occur.”

Though Stein has no chance of winning the state in a recount absent mass fraud, Traugott noted a shift in the results that would bring her up to five percent would help her party secure public funding. Stein garnered 1.1 percent of the vote in Michigan.

Traugott also said the Green Party may be attempting to gain support from the leftmost part of the Democratic Party.  

“This is a public relations effort by the Green Party to try to make inroads on the left side of the Democratic Party,” Traugott said. “It’s probably related to the fact that our American system is stacked in the favor of Democrats and Republicans.”