Dueling court rulings left the fate of a presidential vote recount in Michigan uncertain on Tuesday night, and elections officials in the state said they were “seeking clarity about the next steps.” A recount of last month’s election had already begun in parts of Michigan, one of three closely contested states where Jill Stein, the Green Party’s presidential nominee, had called for new counts, when the seemingly conflicting legal decisions emerged late Tuesday from state and federal courts in Michigan. Ms. Stein has cited concerns about computer hacking and the reliability of voting machines, setting off legal fights with lawyers for President-elect Donald J. Trump, his campaign and his allies, who view the recounts as a needless and expensive tactic. A panel of the Michigan Court of Appeals found that Ms. Stein, who finished a distant fourth to Mr. Trump in the election, had not met the state’s requirements for a recount because she had no chance of winning. The panel concluded that the Michigan Board of State Canvassers ought not to have permitted a recount to go forward because Ms. Stein, given the size of the vote for her, could not be deemed “aggrieved,” as required for a recount under state election law.
Yet in a separate decision, also announced late Tuesday, a federal appeals court turned down requests from the state’s Republican Party and from Bill Schuette, the state’s attorney general, to block a federal court ruling that had cleared the way for the recount to proceed more swiftly than expected. The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit found that Mark A. Goldsmith, a Federal District Court judge, had not violated his discretion when he ordered the recount to go forward on Monday in order to get it done by Electoral College deadlines in mid-December.
Even as the recount has proceeded in conference halls and fairgrounds around the state, the legal fight has been fierce. By late Tuesday, even some officials leading the county-level recounts seemed puzzled about what the latest court rulings would mean for counting the rest of the ballots. In at least one county, Ingham, Barb Byrum, the county clerk, said her workers were finished with their count.