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The recount that should never have happened

Tribune Staff • Dec 8, 2016 at 11:00 AM

The Michigan presidential election recount has come to an end, stopped by a federal judge Wednesday night. Better yet, it’s something that should never have been started.

As you probably know, Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein called for recounts in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Her intent, she says, is to verify the accuracy of the votes. She also makes unsubstantiated claims that the votes were susceptible to computer hacking.

Had the recounts shown that Donald Trump did not carry those three states, counter to what has been verified by election bureaus in those states, there is no way it will benefit Stein. She received about 1 percent of the vote in all three states on Nov. 8.

The beneficiary of any changed outcome would have been Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. But she didn’t ask for the recount.

On Tuesday, a Michigan court sided with a Republican-pushed appeal of the recount, saying that the Green Party candidate's poor showing disqualifies her from seeking a second look at the votes.

Meanwhile, the fate of a statewide recount push in Pennsylvania must wait at least until Friday, when a federal judge has scheduled a hearing, according to an Associated Press report.

President-elect Trump narrowly defeated Clinton in both states and Wisconsin, which started its recount last week.

The Michigan Court of Appeals said Stein has no standing to have the votes recounted. The court said she finished fourth in the election and doesn't qualify as an "aggrieved" candidate, at least not under Michigan law, and the court ordered the state election board to reject her recount petition.

Attorney General Bill Schuette said Tuesday night that the decision means the recount "must stop." But Stein's attorney, Mark Brewer, insisted the recount isn't over.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith ordered an immediate statewide recount of the 4.8 million ballots cast in Michigan last month. Ottawa County’s recounting began Tuesday.

But on Wednesday night, Goldsmith reversed his order, tying his new decision to Tuesday’s state court ruling that found Stein had no legal standing to request the recount in Michigan. Earlier Wednesday, the Michigan elections board said the recount would end if Goldsmith extinguished his earlier order.

Also on Tuesday, a Republican-controlled committee in the state Legislature approved a measure that would require candidates who lose by more than 5 percentage points to pay 100 percent of the estimated recount cost. The bill would apply to Stein, though Democrats questioned the legality of changing the rules "in the middle of the game.”

While we agree with that measure going forward, you can’t change the rules and then send a bill for something that happened under the old rules. So, sorry if the cost of the recount — less what Stein is already on the hook for — falls on the government tab (read, taxpayers), but that’s the way it is.

However, it should never have happened. We hope lawmakers figure this one out before it happens again. Only a candidate who could be aggrieved (or benefit from it) should be able to call for a recount.

In the meantime, next month, Donald Trump will become president of the United States. That’s how our elections work. It’s time for all of us to accept it and move forward.

Our Views reflects the majority opinion of the members of the Grand Haven Tribune editorial board: Kevin Hook, Matt DeYoung, Alex Doty and Mark Brooky. What do you think? E-mail us a letter to the editor to news@grandhaventribune.com or log-in to our website and leave a comment below.

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