November 19, 2020 12:24:37 pm
The Wisconsin Elections Commission approved an order for a partial recount of the presidential vote that was requested by President Donald Trump’s campaign in his long-shot bid to overturn the result in a key swing state that helped give President-elect Joe Biden his victory earlier this month.
The campaign filed petitions Wednesday morning for recounts in two heavily Democratic counties: Milwaukee and Dane, which includes the city of Madison. The two counties also account for a majority of Wisconsin’s Black population.
The Elections Commission ordered the recount late Wednesday local time in a lengthy meeting. Members of the six-member commission, which is split among Democrats and Republicans, argued about the language in the recount order and changes to a recount manual that were proposed to address conducting a recount during the coronavirus pandemic.
Democrats on the commission also objected to some of the Trump campaign’s claims in the petition that were repeated by GOP members of the commission.
The Elections Commission said on Wednesday it had received $3 million from the Trump campaign; a statewide recount would have cost an estimated $7.9 million.
“We understand the eyes of the world will be on these Wisconsin counties over the next few weeks,” Meagan Wolfe, Wisconsin’s chief election official, said in a statement.
History suggests little likelihood of Trump being able to overturn the result. Biden’s unofficial margin of 20,565 votes — according to the AP — is much larger than the shifts in votes seen in statewide recounts in 2016 and 2011, which each changed the margin of victory by fewer than 1,000 votes.
In an emailed statement, Trump’s campaign cited “illegally altered absentee ballots, illegally issued absentee ballots, and illegal advice given by government officials allowing Wisconsin’s Voter ID laws to be circumvented.” The campaign statement alleges that Wisconsin municipal clerks issued absentee ballots without voters requesting them, among other claims.
Both Dane and Milwaukee counties received a high number of absentee ballot applications for the 2020 election, according to a tally provided by the state.
Ann Jacobs, a Democrat who chairs the commission, urged members to avoid touting conspiracy theories. “What I would suggest is we stick to reality,” she said.
Wolfe, the state elections chief, has said that “we have not seen any credible information to cast any doubt on those unofficial results.”
“No evidence has been provided that supports allegations of systemic or widespread election issues,” Wolfe said in her Nov. 10 statement. “Unfortunately, we are seeing many concerns that result from this unsubstantiated misinformation.”
The recount needs to be completed by Dec. 1, when the commission must certify the election results. Recount boards can begin meeting on Thursday, the commission said.
The Biden campaign, or another interested group, could file a petition for a recount in counties where Trump didn’t make a request. They would have two days in which to file after the first recount was completed, according to Wisconsin statutes.
The estimate of the cost of a full statewide recount in the Upper Midwest state was well above that of the presidential recount in 2016 — driven up by the logistics of local officials conducting the operation amid a spike in the coronavirus.
Scott McDonell, Dane County clerk, said in a call with reporters on Wednesday that Biden could pick up votes during a recount in the county, which is a Democratic stronghold home to the city of Madison.
“My guess would be that by focusing on Dane and Milwaukee, the end result will be that Biden will have a slight increase in votes, but nothing terribly significant,” he said.
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