Lansing — Election workers in Ingham and Oakland counties hastily launched Michigan’s unprecedented presidential election recount mid-day Monday, less than 12 hours after a federal judge ordered the statewide recount to commence.
The recount got underway first in Ingham County, with Oakland County following closely behind.
Three hours after the recount began, the Michigan Republican Party appealed in federal court the immediate start of a statewide recount of the Nov. 8 election results.
The appeal notice was filed in federal court in Detroit about 15 hours after U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith issued a middle-of-the-night ruling authorizing the recount requested by Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein. The judge ordered the recount begin immediately and “continue until further order of this court.”
The appeal threatens to throw into chaos recounts that are scheduled to expand to Kalamazoo, Kent, Macomb, Ottawa, Washtenaw and Wayne counties, starting at 9 a.m. Tuesday.
The appeal notice was filed by Lansing attorney Gary Gordon, who is representing the Michigan Republican Party and President-elect Donald Trump.
As attorneys for Trump and the GOP continued to battle the recount, the real time-consuming and tedious work got underway just after noon Monday.
Ingham County has more than 130,000 ballots to recount and plans to have 30 teams of two workers — one Republican, one Democrat — recounting ballots daily from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. until the process is complete, Clerk Barb Byrum said.
“This is a huge undertaking,” Byrum said before the recount began.
Ingham County is holding its recount inside the arena barn of the Ingham County Fairgrounds, where ballots secured inside suitcases are stacked on pallets and will be guarded at night at a sheriff’s deputy.
Oakland County, meanwhile, is holding its recount efforts of more than 669,000 ballots at the the Oakland Intermediate School District building in Waterford Township, with plans to continue until 7 p.m. Monday before resuming at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, according to Oakland County Director of Elections Joe Rozell.
State elections officials and Oakland County Clerk Lisa Brown were in attendance.
“We don't want a fast pace," said Tom Luitje, election specialist with the State Bureau of Elections. "This is not a race. We're out to get this done as accurately as we possibly can."
U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith’s ruling, issued just after midnight, required the recount requested by Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein to commence Monday and “continue until further order of this court.”
The Secretary of State’s Office developed a schedule to stagger the recounts of smaller counties throughout the week.
That had county and municipal clerks scrambling Monday morning to pull together workers who weren’t expected to be activated until Wednesday morning prior to Goldsmith’s ruling.
Officials in Ingham and Oakland counties had planned to train surrounding counties in a staggered rollout of centralized hubs for the recount to be conducted in the state’s 18 largest counties.
Meanwhile, the state appeals court Monday scheduled oral arguments for 4 p.m. Tuesday in Lansing, one day after the federal judge ordered the recount to start.
The court will consider arguments from lawyers for Trump and state Attorney General Bill Schuette, both of whom are trying to stop the recount.
“I am pleased the Michigan Court of Appeals has chosen to take up the issue of the frivolous recount being demanded by Jill Stein,” Schuette said in a statement Monday. “Her insistence on a recount despite only getting 1 percent of the vote has created chaos for our county clerks and will cost Michigan taxpayers millions of dollars. I am asking the Court of Appeals to rule on the side of Michigan voters and end this frivolous recount.”
The appeals court also granted a request from Stein’s lawyers to intervene in the attorney general’s case.
Gov. Rick Snyder on Monday encouraged election officials to conduct the recount “promptly.”
“The Electoral College needs to meet in a couple of weeks, and, hopefully, it can get done in a timely fashion. I don’t expect it (the recount) to change the outcome, but let’s go through the process,” Snyder said at an event in Dearborn.
The Republican governor noted there’s been no evidence of fraud or tampering with election machines — something Stein and her supporters want explore through the recount.
“The issue is, we haven’t seen any issues or problems because I want to remind people this isn’t because they found particular problems,” Snyder said. “This is just the way our process works.”
The Stein campaign and Michigan’s Green Party have recruited “hundreds” of volunteers who have been trained and waiting for the recount to start after last week’s legal delays, said Mark Brewer, a Southfield attorney representing Stein in the recount.
“There was a plan to start Friday, then there was a plan to start Wednesday, and now we have to start at noon today,” Brewer said Monday morning.
Goldsmith greenlighted the recount to start Monday instead of Wednesday after Brewer sued to jump-start the massive undertaking.
Earlier Monday, Schuette, the Trump campaign and Michigan Republican Party were reviewing their legal options to stop the recount. They have sued separately in state Court of Appeals and Supreme Court, which are more favorable to Republicans than the federal court in Detroit.
“We are exploring every possible avenue available to us and still believe that this recount is an incredible waste of Michigan taxpayers’ money,” Michigan GOP chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel said Monday in a statement. “This judicial opinion throws our process into chaos when our law provides for an orderly procedure. We will vigorously pursue any and all options available to us to overturn this ruling and to end this recount.”
On Sunday, Goldsmith held a rare weekend hearing on the issue and ruled in Stein’s favor, citing the short time period to conduct the hand recount before a Dec. 13 deadline.
State and local election officials have been preparing for the recount for the past week, lining up large events centers and hiring staff to work 11-hour daily shifts for a marathon examination of the Nov. 8 election results.
Macomb County chief elections clerk Roger Cardamone said the state told his office to begin Tuesday morning. Workers are expected to gather at the Macomb Community College Sports and Expo Center at 8:30 a.m.
“We were prepared for there to be some uncertainty,” said Cardamone, “so we’re just rolling with that, and we’ll continue to do whatever the courts tell us to do.”
Trump defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton by 10,704 votes in Michigan, the narrowest margin of victory in a presidential election in state history.
Stein, who finished fourth place with less than 1.1 percent of the vote, requested a recount to see whether Michigan’s optical scanning machines properly counted every vote. She also raised concerns about election machines being rigged — claims that state election officials have said are unfounded.
State Elections Director Chris Thomas testified at the hearing that election officials may have to change their plans to adjust to the eight-day window by working longer hours to pull off the recount task, which he called “doable but difficult.”
“I believe Chris when he says he wants to get this done by the 13th … he wants to get it done and he’ll get it done with integrity,” said Brewer, who called Goldsmith’s ruling “a victory for Michigan voters.”
Byrum had initially planned on employing 25 two-member teams to conduct the recount at Ingham County Fairgrounds in Mason but is now hoping to use 30 teams after legal battles delayed a planned Friday start. She wants to complete the full county recount within six days to keep the costs under control.
“That’s a lofty goal, but I’m hopeful we are able to complete it within the week,” Byrum said.
Macomb County, originally scheduled to begin the hand recount Saturday, instead held a two-hour training session for workers this weekend.
Cardamone said the county also hopes to complete the recount within six days but might go longer if necessary. It is sticking with plans to employ 30 two-member teams.
“We’re very confident we’ll be fully staffed and ready to go tomorrow morning,” he said.
Detroit News staff writers Christine Ferretti and Charles E. Ramirez contributed.