MILWAUKEE — It remains unclear whether President Trump even qualifies for a recount in Wisconsin. If it does happen, Milwaukee County and each of the other 71 counties in the state would be tasked with counting all the ballots again.
“As of Wednesday, municipalities had to get all materials to their county,” said Meagan Wolfe, Wisconsin Elections Commission Administrator. “The counties will have those materials, and in the event of a recount, they’re the ones that organize it. A lot of times they’ll bring in help from their local election officials.”
Each county can choose to do the recount by hand or machine.
Attorney Michael Maistelman, who’s been involved in municipal and statewide recounts before, says the Trump campaign can ask that all ballots be counted by hand.
“He would have to go to court and attempt to get a court order, ordering the state to count all the ballots by hand,” Maistelman said. “He’s going to want to focus most on the democratic areas of the state - Milwaukee and Dane Counties, and parts of Brown County. Recounts are laborious. They’re boring. There’s a lot of standing around watching poll workers move ballots from one pile to another and running through the machines.”
Representatives of each candidate - Trump and Biden - are allowed to observe the entire recount process and object to the counting of any vote. But they are prohibited from touching the paper ballots or machines.
Local officials would have 13 days to complete the recount. But Wolfe has confidence in the accuracy of the results.
“There is no opportunity to count a ballot that did not go through our incredibly meticulous process to make sure it was issued correctly, and to make sure it was counted correctly,” she said. “Then, it also has to go through those three steps of canvas at the municipal, county and state level before we have certified results. Not to mention, every step of the process is publicly observable.”
Wolfe points to the 2016 Election, when Wisconsin was the only state to complete a presidential recount, requested and paid for by third-party candidate, Jill Stein. That recount did not alter the outcome, but it did shift the margin by 131 votes in Trump’s favor.
“It found that we have a really solid system here, in that there’s an incredible paper trail for every single request, registration and ballot that’s cast,” Wolfe said. “One hundred and 31 votes is a very small margin. It proved we have a good system. I’m sure that would be the case again.”
In Wisconsin, if the difference in vote totals between two candidates is more than a quarter of a percent, the candidate requesting the recount covers the cost. Money is refunded to that candidate only if the recount changes the outcome in Wisconsin.