Presidential recount underway in Ottawa County

Alex Doty • Dec 7, 2016 at 8:00 AM

WEST OLIVE — Ottawa County election workers have started the process of hand counting ballots that were cast during the presidential race nearly a month ago.

The counting began shortly after 1 p.m. Tuesday in the main conference room of the county’s Fillmore Street Complex in West Olive. 

“We have 25 teams of two counting ballots today,” County Clerk Justin Roebuck said. “The political parties have representatives at each table kind of overseeing and observing this whole process, as well.”

According to Roebuck, the law allows for not more than two individuals representing a political party per table.

“Also, each presidential candidate is allowed one attorney,” he said. “The attorneys we have here are kind of roving from table to table.”

Roebuck said in addition to the teams of ballot counters and observers, there were a number of staff from the State Board of Canvassers and the Ottawa County Clerk’s Office in attendance.

The recount of the Michigan votes from Nov. 8 is being conducted at the request of Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein. Stein said her intent is to verify the accuracy of the vote, and has suggested, with no evidence, that votes cast were susceptible to computer hacking.

A federal judge in Detroit ordered a statewide hand recount of roughly 4.8 million ballots that started in two of the state's 83 counties on Monday.

“Ideally, we’d like to have this process wrapped up in 3-4 days,” Roebuck said. “So that’s what I’m looking at, as long as we’re allowed to essentially proceed by the courts.”

Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette, the Donald Trump campaign and super PACs have filed separate lawsuits asking state courts to prevent the recount, arguing that Stein, as the fourth-place finisher, is not "aggrieved" because she has no chance of winning in a recount. A hearing was scheduled Tuesday on those actions.

Read: “Michigan recount now in doubt after court ruling.”

“It’s business as usual moving forward for us,” Roebuck said. “Until we’re ordered otherwise, we’re going to recount until we are finished.”

The county will be reimbursed $125 per precinct by the Stein campaign if the recount moves forward.

“That will definitely offset a significant number of the costs,” Roebuck said. “But we believe taxpayer money is going to unfortunately have to be used at some level to fund what the $125 per precinct does not cover.”

Stein could be forced to pay the entire cost of Michigan's statewide recount under a bill advancing in the state Legislature. The Republican-controlled House Elections Committee approved the legislation Tuesday that would require any candidate who loses by more than 5 percentage points to pay 100 percent of the estimated cost of the recount.

The bill would retroactively apply to Stein.

Democrats voting against the measure questioned the constitutionality of changing the rules "in the middle of the game."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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