Wisconsin will begin a historic presidential recount next week and the state could risk losing its ability to have its 10 electoral votes counted if it doesn’t meet key deadlines next month.
Hitting a Dec. 13 deadline could be particularly tricky if Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein is able to force the recount to be conducted by hand, Wisconsin’s top election official said.
Stein and independent presidential candidate Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente separately filed recount requests late Friday, the last day they were able to do so. Stein received about 30,000 votes and De La Fuente about 1,500 out of 3 million cast.
One or both of them will have to pay for the recount because they lost by more than 0.25 percent. The cost could top $1 million.
Stein is also planning to ask for recounts in Michigan and Pennsylvania, which have deadlines next week. She has raised $5 million for the recounts in recent days – more than she raised during her campaign leading up to the Nov. 8 election.
Wisconsin’s recount will likely begin late next week, once the state has tallied a cost estimate and received payment from Stein’s campaign, said Michael Haas, administrator of the Wisconsin Elections Commission.
Recounts will be done by county boards of canvassers, which will likely have to work nights and weekends, Haas said.
The push for a recount came as liberals raised fears about hacked voting machines. Election officials and experts say they are unaware of any problems with Wisconsin’s vote tally.
Republican Donald Trump edged out Democrat Hillary Clinton by some 27,000 votes in Wisconsin, becoming the first GOP presidential candidate to win the state since 1984.
Wisconsin’s last statewide recount was in 2011 for a state Supreme Court seat and the outcome did not change. The recount showed Justice David Prosser defeated challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg by 7,004 votes – a slightly tighter margin than the 7,316-vote victory he had in initial returns.
That recount took more than a month. This one would have to happen more quickly because of a federal law that says must complete presidential recounts within 35 days of the election to ensure their electoral votes are counted. This year, that’s Dec. 13.
“You may potentially have the state electoral votes at stake if it doesn’t get done by then,” said Haas.
A lawyer with Stein’s campaign has said it wants the recount done by hand. That would take longer and require a judge’s order, Haas said.
Perhaps the most important deadline is Dec. 19, when electors around the country must meet to cast their Electoral College votes, said Edward Foley, an expert in election law at Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University.
“That is a hard deadline and if a state were to miss that deadline, it would be technically in jeopardy of not having its electoral votes counted,” he said.
If the recount isn’t complete by then, electors from Wisconsin could meet anyway and try to have their results sent to Congress by the time it counts the votes on Jan. 6, Foley said. Congress has wide latitude to decide how to count the states’ electoral votes.
Political scientist Barry Burden, the director of the Elections Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said it would be extremely difficult to complete the recount on time. About twice as many votes were cast in the presidential election as the 2011 Supreme Court race.
In recounts, typically both candidates gain votes, in part because absentee ballots that weren’t counted initially get tallied, he said. Some absentee ballots don’t get counted on election day because they were damaged or had extra marks on them.
Closing Clinton’s gap of 27,000 votes is unlikely, Burden said. She would have to win recounts in all three states to win the presidency – an even more remote possibility.
Wisconsin Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, called the move for a recount ridiculous, saying it would needlessly burden busy local officials.
“If your votes came in at 1 percent of the overall total of the vote, it doesn’t make a lot of sense that you should be able to request a recount and put the whole state through this,” he said.
He said he would consider legislation next year that would allow candidates to force recounts only if they lost by a small margin.
The Clinton and Trump campaigns have not commented on the recount effort.
“Jill Stein’s decision to pursue a recount is absurd and nothing more than an expensive political stunt that undermines Wisconsin’s election process,” Mark Morgan, the executive director of the state Republican Party, said in a statement.
The call for a recount came as some questioned Trump’s wins in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. But election experts noted the voting patterns in those states were similar to the ones in other Midwestern states such as Iowa and Ohio.
George Martin, who sits on the Green Party’s coordinating committee, said Stein was seeking the recount because of concerns about differences between the votes and exit polls, as well as worries that there could have been tampering with voting machines.
“I want to be clear, there is no smoking gun,” Martin said during a news conference at Milwaukee’s City Hall. “There’s not something we’re pointing (at) to say that ‘this is wrong in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.’ What we are saying is there is enough peripheral evidence to warrant that our system should be investigated.”
Excess money raised for the recount will go to Green Party campaign schools next year “to groom local candidates,” Martin said.
De La Fuente said he was seeking the recount because he believed he had been cheated out of thousands of votes. He accused both major parties of cheating, but conceded he wasn’t shorted enough votes to change the election results.
“Whoever cheats the most wins,” he said. “The irony is they’re both cheating.”
UW-Madison’s Burden said hacking Wisconsin’s voting machines would be extremely difficult because they are not connected to the internet.
“They would have to go machine by machine around the state,” he said of those who would try to manipulate the results.
Hacking of election systems is a genuine concern, but the results would be unlikely to be affected, Burden said. A more realistic risk is that hackers could steal personal information from voter rolls or deactivate the registrations of voters, he said.
Posted on November 25, 2016 by Patrick Marley and Bill Glauber