...in liberal Madison, a judge gave each Wisconsin county the option of doing a hand recount or not. Racine declined.
So Whitlock and her colleagues devised a simple work-around. They bought manual counters, mechanical hand clickers. They clicked away as each ballot slipped into the electronic scanner, tallying how many votes were for Clinton, Trump or blank — a so-called undervote. They kept noticing their totals varied from the scanners. When Whitlock’s team saw the scanner miscount 15 votes in a 300-voter precinct in Elmwood Park, she politely asked officials to do a hand count of that precinct. That was an error rate of five percent in a contest, where statewide, Trump’s margin of victory was less than one percent. Whitlock’s request was swiftly denied...
“Three observers click counted votes. The Clinton and Trump counters clicked considerable more votes than a scanner counted,” said Rennert, wearily reading aloud the challenge. “I have no idea what you’re saying except you are requesting a hand count.”Rennert put down the paper. She looked at the room, palms up, exasperated. She said nothing.“Do you want to ask me if you don’t understand?” asked Whitlock.“No,” Rennert tartly replied. “Is this the purpose of a hand count? Yes or No?”“The purpose of a hand count is to get to the truth,” Whitlock replied.“No,” Rennert said, her hands up like stop signs. “How much is it?”“Three-hundred,” a worker said, referring to the number of ballots.
“I don’t care if it’s five,” Rennert declared. “I am not going to do a hand count for anybody.”
They shrugged at the fact that Michigan had Trump’s closest margin nationwide: just eleven thousand votes out of 4.8 million ballots cast. Some seventy-five thousand ballots did not show a vote for president, Michigan’s secretary of state office reported on its website.
That last omission is always suspicious. That’s because people tend to vote for the high-profile races if they vote at all. Maybe some of these 75,000 ballots had presidential votes, but they were not properly scanned. If a good number were from around Detroit, which went two-to-one for Clinton, maybe Trump did not win Michigan after all. Local election activists pointed to a 1950s state law that gave discretion to election officials to examine and recount every paper ballot. But Thomas went on TV saying it would not be done. Detroit’s election director followed his cue, apologizing for the sorry state of voting in his city.The longread is at Salon.