Federal judge approves election recount in Michigan

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Dec 5 (Reuters) - A federal judge has ordered a recount of Michigan's presidential ballots to begin at noon on Monday and directed that the state complete the process by a Dec. 13 federal deadline.

U.S. District Court Judge Mark Goldsmith issued the written order early on Monday after a Sunday night hearing in federal court in the Eastern District of Michigan's Southern Division.

Goldsmith ordered that, once started, the recount "must continue until further order of this court." The recount, which will begin at noon on Monday, was ordered two days ahead of the two-day waiting period the state had planned to observe from Wednesday.

In his ruling, Goldsmith wrote that "budgetary concerns are not sufficiently significant to risk the disenfranchisement of Michigan's nearly 5 million voters."

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Lawsuits have been filed in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, three "Rust Belt" states that bucked their history of supporting Democrats and handed Republican Donald Trump narrow wins in the Nov. 8 election that ultimately gave him victory over Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, a Republican, filed a lawsuit on Friday to halt the requested recount in the state, which Trump won with a margin of roughly 10,700 votes.

Wisconsin's recount began late last week.

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The Green Party and its candidate, Jill Stein, have said their requests for recounts in the three states were focused on ensuring the integrity of the U.S. voting system and not on changing the result of the election.

On Saturday, the Green Party said it was taking its fight for a recount in Pennsylvania to federal court, with Stein expected to make an announced later on Monday in Manhattan.

Even if all the recounts take place, they are extremely unlikely to change the overall outcome of the election.

The presidential race is decided by the Electoral College, or a tally of wins from the state-by-state contests, rather than by the popular national vote. Federal law requires states to resolve disputes over the appointment of electors by Dec. 13.

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Trump surpassed the 270 electoral votes needed to win, with 306 electoral votes, and the recount would have to flip the result to Clinton in all three states to change the overall result. In the popular vote, Clinton had a margin of more than 2.5 million votes over Trump, the Cook Political Report said.

Stein, who garnered only about 1 percent of the vote, has said the recount campaign is not targeted at Trump or Clinton.

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