LANSING, Mich. (AP) – Political candidates who lose big wouldn’t be able to seek a recount under legislation nearing the Michigan governor’s desk.
The Republican-led Senate voted 27-8 Wednesday for legislation upping the standards for election recounts to require that aggrieved candidates prove they have a reasonable chance of victory. The House also voted 93-16 to pass legislation to double losing candidates’ fees to recount votes if they lost by more than 5 percentage points.
Both bills will soon go to Gov. Rick Snyder.
Currently, candidates must allege that they believe they are aggrieved due to fraud or mistake to petition for a recount and are required to pay the state $125 per precinct.
Republican Rep. Jim Lilly, sponsor of the bill that passed the Senate, said his legislation was borne of the 2016 election’s drawn out aftermath in Michigan, where Green Party candidate Jill Stein triggered a recount after Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton by 10,704 votes.
“The last election cycle just brought to light something with our election law in Michigan that could be exploited,” said Lilly. “I didn’t want to see somebody taking advantage of that again for basically political gain.”
Stein’s efforts ultimately escalated into legal tangle with a state appeals court that terminated the recount upon ruling that her 1-percent share of the vote does not qualify her as “aggrieved.” Lilly’s bill would codify the judge order on Stein’s recount, which Lilly described as “clearly frivolous.”
Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich voted ‘no’ because he believes all candidates should have the right to pursue a recount if they are willing to pay the cost.
“I fundamentally don’t like limiting people’s access,” the Democrat from Flint said. “Jill Stein’s recount showed mistakes and have led to improvements in our election process. Those things wouldn’t have come out if the recount didn’t happen.”
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 are set to debut during this year’s midterm elections.
Sen. Dave Robertson, sponsor of the legislation voted out of the House, said his bill and Lilly’s are complementary.
“It’s entirely reasonable that if a recount is to be had, the person requesting should pay for it and not have taxpayers stuck with the cost,” the Grand Blanc Republican said. “The 2016 recount was an enormous cost statewide.”
Fred Woodhams, spokesman for Michigan’s secretary of state, said had Stein’s recount come to fruition it would have cost the state about $5 million. Stein was slated to foot $973,250 of the price until her recall was halted.
Wisconsin, another state chosen in 2016 for a Stein recount, has already passed a law restricting future requests.
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