Pres. Trump pays $3 million for partial Wisconsin vote recount in 2 counties

Presidential Transition

MADISON, Wis. (NewsNation Now) — President Donald Trump’s campaign has paid $3 million for a recount of two heavily Democratic Wisconsin counties, saying Wednesday that they were the sight of the “worst irregularities” although no evidence of wrongdoing has been presented and state elections officials have said there was none.

The recounts in Milwaukee and Dane counties will begin Friday and must be done by Dec. 1. Democrat Joe Biden received 577,455 votes in those two counties compared with 213,157 for Trump. Biden won statewide by 20,608 votes, based on canvassed results submitted by the counties.

“The official canvass results reaffirmed Joe Biden’s clear and resounding win in Wisconsin after Wisconsin voters turned out to cast their ballots in record numbers,” said Biden campaign spokesman Nate Evans. “A cherry-picked and selective recounting of Milwaukee and Dane County will not change these results.”

Milwaukee County is the state’s largest, home to the city of Milwaukee, and Black people make up about 27% of the population, more than any other county. Dane County is home to the liberal capital city of Madison and the flagship University of Wisconsin campus.

“The people of Wisconsin deserve to know whether their election processes worked in a legal and transparent way,” said Wisconsin attorney Jim Troupis, who is working with the Trump campaign. “Regrettably, the integrity of the election results cannot be trusted without a recount in these two counties and uniform enforcement of Wisconsin absentee ballot requirements. We will not know the true results of the election until only the legal ballots cast are counted.”

The Trump campaign has told the commission that it will file the petition by the 5 p.m. deadline, the commission tweeted.

Trump has until 5 p.m. Wednesday to submit the rest of the $7.9 million estimated cost for a statewide recount and other required paperwork in Wisconsin, as he has promised supporters he would.

The clock started Tuesday when the final Wisconsin county submitted its canvassed vote totals to the state’s elections commission. The recount could begin as soon as Thursday, and must be completed no later than Dec. 1.

Recounts are not automatic under Wisconsin law. But any losing candidate who is within 1 point of the winner can request one. Trump lost by about six-tenths of a point, based on unofficial results. Candidates must pay for recounts if they are more than 0.25 points behind the winner.

Trump has made unfounded claims of voting irregularities and fraud, even though Wisconsin elections officials have said there were no irregularities or widespread problems reported. 

Separately Monday, three voters who filed a federal lawsuit last week seeking to exclude some ballots in Milwaukee, Dane and Menominee counties withdrew their lawsuit. The voters had alleged widespread fraud in absentee balloting.

The cost for the recount this year is four times higher than it was four years ago, according to Wisconsin’s chief election official. It’s a cost increase that elections officials say was driven by expenses related to conducting a recount during the coronavirus pandemic

Meagan Wolfe said the recount estimate was “significantly higher” than the actual costs of the 2016 recount there because it included extra funds for larger spaces required for social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as security for those spaces, and a greater number of absentee ballots.

“We still have not received any indication that there will or will not be a recount,” said Wolfe. “But we want Wisconsin’s voters to know we are ready.”

Recounts in Wisconsin and across the country have historically resulted in very few vote changes. A 2016 presidential recount in Wisconsin netted Trump an additional 131 votes.

Trump won Wisconsin by fewer than 23,000 votes that year and opposed the recount brought by Green Party candidate Jill Stein.

“The legal team continues to examine the issues with irregularities in Wisconsin and are leaving all legal options open, including a recount and an audit,” Trump 2020 legal adviser Jenna Ellis said when asked if the campaign would move ahead with a petition for a recount.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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