Hundreds Protest in Detroit: ‘Fight Goes On’ to Protect Voting Rights, Reform Election System

For Immediate Release: Saturday, December 10, 2016

Hundreds Protest in Detroit: ‘Fight Goes On’ to Protect Voting Rights, Reform Election System

Stein: “Political Cronyism, Bureaucratic Obstruction, Legal Maneuvering Have Run Roughshod over Democratic Process”

New York Times: Recount Rules ‘Arcane and Confusing,’ a ‘Political Horror Show’

(Detroit, Michigan) – Hundreds of Michigan voters across the state descended on downtown Detroit this afternoon, vowing to keep fighting for a voting system that is accurate, secure and just, following the Michigan Supreme Court’s decision Friday evening to deny a recount appeal. Joined by Dr. Jill Stein, the 2016 Green Party candidate for president who initiated the recount in Michigan, protesters said that the numerous irregularities uncovered during three days of the recount provided significant evidence that voters in Michigan – particularly communities of color – may have been massively disenfranchised during the election.

“Efforts to block the recount in Michigan and across the country are a shameful attack on our democracy and on our constitutional and civil rights. We are going to fight like never before to secure and protect those rights – no matter what it takes,” said Lou Novak, a Detroit resident and recount volunteer who helped organize and spoke at the rally outside Cobo Hall in Detroit. “The discrepancies we’ve discovered while counting votes thus far are precisely the reason we needed a recount in the first place.”

The rally comes just a day after President Obama took the extraordinary step to order a “full review” of hacking-related activity aimed at disrupting the 2016 presidential election, amid increasing doubt over the security, accuracy and fairness of the election system. The announcement is yet the latest indication of the public’s lack of trust in the voting election system, and a sign that the irregularities that have already been discovered during recounts in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania – called a “political horror show” in the New York Times – underscore the need for reform of the election system.

In three days since the recount began, numerous red flags into the integrity of Michigan’s election have surfaced. Reports suggest that as many as half of Detroit votes – and many more in surrounding urban areas – were ineligible for a recount due to an antiquated state law that says a precinct cannot be recounted if the poll book and ballot box numbers fail to match. In 392 of 662 precincts in heavily Democratic Detroit, or 59 percent, the number of ballots in precinct poll books did not initially match those of voting machines printout reports. As the Detroit Free Press summed it in a headline Tuesday: “The list of problem precincts continues to grow during Michigan’s recount.” 

“Although we are deeply disappointed in the decision by the Michigan Supreme Court not to hear our appeal that would have allowed Michigan’s recount to finish, we are not surprised given the political cronyism, bureaucratic obstruction, and legal maneuvering that have run roughshod over the democratic process,” said Dr. Jill Stein. “The importance of this recount has been reiterated every step of the way. A recount should not be this difficult or controversial. It should be automatic. If you take out money from a bank, the teller counts it twice – and the second time, they count it in front of your eyes. It should be well understood that something as important as a presidential election requires a basic level of quality assurance and verification.

During the recount, it was revealed that in Detroit alone, a shocking 87 voting machines broke on Election Day, many jamming when voters fed ballots into optical scanners resulting in erroneous vote counts. Daniel Baxter, elections director for the city of Detroit, told the Detroit News that the discrepancies were due to the city’s decade-old voting machines, saying the situation was “not good.” These revelations are in line with substantial research, including a U.S. Civil Rights Commission report, that finds that voters of color are at massively increased risk of having their votes misread or simply tossed out by human error or by badly maintained and poorly calibrated machines in underserved communities.

“Blame for the shut-down Michigan’s recount lies at the feet of Democrats and Republicans alike – Hillary Clinton, for not conceding but instead capitulating in response to voters’ demands for a recount, as well as Donald Trump, for not just perpetuating, but actively defending the disenfranchisement of people of color,” said Dr. Jill Stein. “But the fight goes on. The fight for a voting system we can trust; a voting system that is accurate, secure and just; a system that counts every vote and makes every vote count; and a system that ends the de-facto electoral Jim Crow that we currently have in this country.”

On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith lifted his emergency order that set into motion Michigan’s statewide recount. While the judge affirmed his earlier decision that uncertainty in the election represented “a credible threat” to the “fundamental right to vote, and to have that vote conducted fairly and counted accurately,” he said that federal court could not “ignore the Michigan court’s ruling and make an independent judgment regarding what the legislature intended.” The Judge wrote in the decision: “The issues that plaintiffs raise are serious indeed. The vulnerability of our system of voting poses the threat of a potentially devastating attack on the integrity of our election system.”

“We are deeply disappointed in Judge Goldsmith’s ruling, which gives deference to partisan state judges in Michigan attempting to block the recount simply because of the person who made the request, without regard for the integrity of Michigan’s electoral system,” said Hayley Horowitz and Jessica Clarke, Stein campaign lawyers in Michigan. “The history of this country is one where federal courts step in to protect the constitutional rights of all Americans, especially when they are under attack in the states. Well today, they are under brutal attack in Michigan from Donald Trump and state Republicans.”  

Michigan Republicans’ efforts to suppress voting rights are not limited to their obstruction to the recount. Despite zero evidence of voter fraud in the state, House Republicans on Wednesday night approved a strict voter identification proposal over strenuous objections that the plan could disenfranchise properly registered voters. The legislation requires legally registered voters who forget their photo identification when they go to vote to have to use a provisional ballot. Those ballots would be held aside and not counted unless the person goes to their local clerk’s office with their photo identification and proves who they are within 10 days.

There were 75,335 “under-votes” in Michigan, which are ballots that are filled out except for the vote for President—70 percent higher than the number in 2012. Many of these are in Oakland and Wayne Counties, which include Detroit, raising the very real possibility that communities of color may have been disenfranchised by an unreliable counting of the votes. The number of under-votes exceeds by several-fold Trump’s margin of victory in the state.

“America’s voting machines and optical scanners are prone to errors and susceptible to outside manipulation,” said J. Alex Halderman, one of the nation’s leading cyber security experts and a Professor of Computer Science at the University of Michigan. “That’s precisely why we need this recount – to examine the physical evidence, to look under the hood. A recount is the best way, and indeed the only way in 2016, to ensure public confidence that the results are accurate, authentic, and untainted by outside interference.”

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