What Tuesday’s recount revealed about Detroit’s troubled election system

Detroit's presidential election recount began today at Cobo Hall. By Steve Neavling.

Detroit’s presidential election recount began today at Cobo Hall. By Steve Neavling.

Numerous voting irregularities became evident almost as soon as the ongoing presidential recount started in Detroit on Tuesday morning.

Before election workers and observers took a lunch break Tuesday afternoon, about eight precincts were deemed ineligible for a recount because of broken seals and a discrepancy between the number of votes in the ballot box and the number of votes recorded in polling books. Only a tiny fraction of the votes were recounted by lunch, so the number of precincts that aren’t eligible for recount is expected to rise significantly over the next two days.

An unusual law in Michigan bars votes from being recounted if their numbers in the polling books don’t match the numbers on the ballot box.

Motor City Muckraker reported Monday that 59% of Detroit’s precincts had discrepancies between the ballot box and poll book numbers. That’s bad news for Hillary Clinton, who lost the election by just 0.15% in Michigan and gained 95% of the Detroit vote. If she’s going to pick up a significant number of votes, it would be in Detroit.

Making matters worse for Clinton, there were no attorneys representing her or Green Party candidate Jill Stein, who launched the recall campaign, in Detroit. They also struggled to get enough volunteers to observe the recount.

By contrast, Donald Trump’s supporters brought at least eight lawyers and enough observers to examine the recount in each precinct.

Detroit’s election day was riddled with problems, from incompetent poll workers to broken optical scanners.

But the fate of the recount in Michigan remains uncertain. Conflicting court orders thrust the recount into limbo on Tuesday evening.

Later in the day Thursday, Wayne County election workers declined to divulge the number of disqualified precincts, whether Clinton was picking up votes or how many precincts were counted.

Motor City Muckraker will return to Cobo Hall today as the recount continues. It’s expected to take several days.

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Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.