Why a Wisconsin recount wouldn't likely save Trump

David Knowles
·Editor
·3 min read

The Trump campaign announced Wednesday that it was requesting a formal recount of the ballots cast in the presidential election in Wisconsin, where Joe Biden leads by more than 20,000 votes and the Associated Press has projected him the winner.

“There have been reports of irregularities in several Wisconsin counties which raise serious doubts about the validity of the results,” Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien said in a statement. “The President is well within his rights to request a recount and we will immediately do so.”

Earlier on Wednesday, Wisconsin’s chief election official, Meagan Wolfe, disputed the Trump campaign’s claim of irregularities that had cast doubt on the results in the state.

“Elections are a meticulous process. So everything is recorded by your local election officials. If there’s anything abnormal that happens, they record it in their inspector’s statement and so there’s a paper trail for everything, and all those materials are maintained,” Wolfe told reporters via videoconference. “We’ve had a recount before, and it showed that we have a really good process. We have a really good system and our local election officials are doing a phenomenal job.”

Under state law, any candidate within a 1 percent margin in the final tally is entitled to a recount. As of Wednesday at noon, Biden had a lead of 20,533 votes out of a total 3,240,329 ballots cast, or 0.6 percent. State officials must complete their counts by 4 p.m. local time on Wednesday, but then the counties will conduct canvasses that must be finished by Nov. 17. Those results are then sent to the state’s Elections Commission, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported, which plans to certify results on Dec. 1. If the margin separating Trump and Biden continues to be within 1 percent, a recount can then proceed.

Alyssa Padjen, a City Clerk intern, organizes tapes from ballot counting machines after Election Day at the Kenosha Municipal Building in Kenosha, Wisconsin, U.S. November 4, 2020. REUTERS/Daniel Acker
Alyssa Padjen, a city clerk intern, organizes tapes from ballot counting machines in Kenosha, Wis., on Wednesday. (Daniel Acker/Reuters)

On Wednesday, the AP projected that Biden would win the state, drawing him nearer to becoming the next president. The state’s former Republican Gov. Scott Walker, meanwhile, made the case on Twitter that Trump had little hope of overturning what appears to be a solid Biden victory there.

Walker knows whereof he speaks. After he lost reelection in 2018 to Democrat Tony Evers, Walker was unable to qualify for a recount thanks to a measure he signed into law that tightened the rules for when a candidate can request one. That law came in response to Green Party candidate Jill Stein’s request of a recount in Wisconsin in 2016. Stein received just 1 percent of the vote but was able to force a recount after agreeing to pay the nearly $3.5 million cost of conducting it. After the recount, Trump had gained a grand total of 131 votes.

In 2016, Trump was declared the winner in Wisconsin with a smaller margin of votes than now separates him and Biden. According to state law, the Trump campaign will also be expected to pay for the recount, since the margin separating the two candidates is above 0.26 percent.

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