The recount of the presidential election ended on Wednesday night as abruptly as it had begun. By Thursday, workers were packing away canvas bags of ballots, board records and tables and chairs. A legal battle halted proceedings before all of Michigan’s votes were counted again, but not before a flood of perplexing peculiarities emerged. An effort to recount the votes here and in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin led by Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, was never viewed as very likely to change Donald J. Trump’s election to the presidency, but it revealed something else in stark terms: 16 years after a different presidential recount in Florida dragged on for five agonizing weeks, bringing the nation close to a constitutional crisis, recounts remain a tangle of dueling lawyers, hyperpartisanship and claims of flawed technology. States still have vastly different systems for calling recounts and for carrying them out. Counting standards are inconsistent from state to state, and obscure provisions, like one in Michigan that deems some precincts not “recountable,” threaten to raise more public doubt about elections than confidence. Some of the most basic questions — is it better to count by hand, or with a machine? — have not been settled.
And the process is endlessly mired in political and legal maneuvering; some days this week, the legal fight was playing out in the three states, seemingly simultaneously, in nearly every level of state and federal courts, while partisan leaders held dueling news conferences.
… In an interview, Ms. Stein bemoaned the recount process as a “political horror show,” saying, “The recount itself is not accurate, secure, and just, and it reflects that we have a voting system that is seriously flawed.”
The recount rules themselves, experts say, are arcane and confusing in some places, leaving plenty of room for lawyers to interpret and mount legal challenges.