Wisconsin readies for $3.5M presidential vote recount

Published 10:13 am Tuesday, November 29, 2016

By Tim Pugmire

MPR.org/90.1 FM

Wisconsin officials are set to begin a fast-paced presidential vote recount on Thursday that is unlikely to deny Donald Trump the election win there.

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Before the state starts a recount, which is expected to take two weeks, it needs a $3.5 million advance payment to cover the estimated costs.

That money is supposed to come from Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein — who has been leading recount pushes in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania — and Reform Party candidate Roque De La Fuente.

George Martin of the Wisconsin Green Party said he supports Stein’s effort to determine whether votes were manipulated or computers hacked.

“We’re not saying that it happened here. But we’re saying that the American public deserves the right for it to be investigated,” he said, “so that we know whether or not it happened, and also if it did, that we improve our system.”

However, Wisconsin Elections Commission chair Mark Thomsen said Monday that he doesn’t like the suggestion that something was amiss with the system or with the way people did their jobs.

It was “really inappropriate,” Thomsen said, to suggest that illegal votes were being counted or that there were issues in the first vote count.

Thomsen noted Wisconsin’s last statewide recount, which was for a Supreme Court seat in 2011, changed just 300 votes. He said he doesn’t expect much change this time either.

“If nothing else, this is going to give us a very good audit,” he said. “It’s going to reassure Wisconsin voters that we have a fair system. We’re not counting illegal votes. We’re not counting dead peoples’ votes.”

The elections commission rejected Stein’s request that the tabulation of all ballots be done by hand. Instead, it will allow counties to decide whether to conduct hand recounts or use tabulating equipment. Stein plans to challenge that move in court.

Wisconsin, like Minnesota, has a decentralized voting system using both paper and electronic ballots.

Voting machines are not connected to the internet, said Michael Haas, administrator of the Wisconsin Elections Commission.

Someone wanting to tamper with local machines would need unfettered physical access, he said, and getting that across the state is unlikely.

In western Wisconsin, Trump scored convincing wins in most counties. His margin over Democrat Hillary Clinton in Polk county, for example, was nearly 28 percentage points.

Alan Walker, chairman of the Polk County Republican Party, says the recount is unnecessary.

“I’m sure the election results will come back the same as they were the first time, when the recount is done,” he said. “It just causes all our county clerks to go through the extra trouble of counting through all those ballots.”

Trump also did well in Pierce County, with a 14-point margin over Clinton. Jim Camery, co-chair of the Pierce County Democratic Party, said he doesn’t know if anything will come from the recount. But he said he doesn’t have a problem with Stein’s effort.

“I don’t see this like an affront to democracy or anything like that,” he said. “This is what we need to do if there are genuine suspicions.”

Further details about the Wisconsin recount rules and processes are expected to come Wednesday, when state officials have scheduled a teleconference with all county clerks and county canvass board members.