Michigan Senate OKs recount fee hike if election isn’t close

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan’s fee to recount election votes would double if a losing candidate is down by more than 5 percentage points under legislation approved Tuesday by the state Senate in response to Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein’s recount bid last fall.

The bill would increase the fee from $125 per precinct to $250. It would stay at $125 if the margin is 5 points or less and remain at $25 if it is under half of a point.

WASHINGTON, DC – AUGUST 23: Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein waits to be introduced prior to a press conference at the National Press Club August 23, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Stein sought the recount despite winning 1 percent of the vote, questioning the accuracy of the vote and suggesting, without evidence, that votes were susceptible to hacking.

Supporters of the legislation said the recount by Stein, which covered more than 40 percent of the statewide vote before courts stopped it, showed the fee is to too low to cover costs, particularly in a statewide recount. She also mounted recounts in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, other states where Republican Donald Trump narrowly defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton.

“You had to draw the line somewhere with regard to the costs associated,” said Sen. Dave Robertson, a Grand Blanc Republican and the bill sponsor. “We wanted to obviously preserve the rights of individuals to engage in recounts. But we wanted to accurately reflect the costs associated with a recount.”

Stein initially paid $973,000 and was reimbursed $632,000 because a full recount did not occur. Counties that participated in the recount received Stein’s $341,000, while state costs were not reimbursed, said Department of State spokesman Fred Woodhams.

The measure was passed almost entirely along party lines, with majority Republicans in support and Democrats in opposition, and sent to the GOP-led House. One Republican opposed it, while one Democrat backed it.

Sen. Steve Bieda, a Warren Democrat who voted no, said the 100 percent fee hike is the “largest increase I’ve ever seen” in a dozen years in the Legislature.

“It goes to the sanctity of our elections for people to be able to challenge the result of an election,” including the accuracy, he said. “While there may have been some abuses that led up to this, and I acknowledge that, I also acknowledge that there’s been a lot of good that came out of several of our recount elections in trying to identify problems in our system.”

In December, a federal judge in Detroit said Stein raised serious issues about the integrity of Michigan’s election system. But he said she offered “speculative claims” and “not actual injury.”

In Wisconsin, legislation that would have prevented its presidential recount is gaining momentum. Only a candidate who trails the winner by 1 percentage point or less in a statewide election could petition for a recount.

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