On Wednesday, former Green party presidential candidate Jill Stein launched an effort to raise enough funds to request recounts of the 2016 election’s results in the states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. On Friday afternoon, she successfully initiated the latter.
The Wisconsin Election Commission confirmed that it had received a recount petition from Stein, as well as independent candidate Rocky De La Fuente, with less than two hours remaining before the Friday deadline.
It’s yet another unusual turn in a historically unusual election season. Stein herself received just 31,006 votes in Wisconsin, and her initial announcement of the recount effort cited security experts whose primary concern was that a robust audit take place, a less arduous and less expensive undertaking than a full recount. (Wisconsin was already going to audit the results, albeit with a limited scope.)
Now, every county’s votes—2,975,313 in all—must be recounted by December 13th. That’s going to be a tough date to hit, according to Wisconsin Elections Commission Administrator Michael Haas. “The recount process is very detail-oriented, and this deadline will certainly challenge some counties to finish on time,” Haas said in a statement.
To ensure thoroughness and accuracy, Haas says, county boards may have to work nights and weekends. Because the gap between first and second place was greater than .25 percent of the total (Trump won the state by 22,168 votes), Stein, or more specifically those who donated millions of dollars to her recount campaign this week, will have to foot the bill. As of publication, Stein had raised $5.3 million toward the three recounts. The Wisconsin Elections Commission said today that the last statewide recount, for a 2011 state Supreme Court contest, reportedly cost the counties over $520,000 cumulatively. That election saw about half as many votes as the 2016 presidential race.
While the election was close in Wisconsin, there’s no actual evidence of hacking or tampering there, and the statistical variances that alarmed cybersecurity researchers are explainable by demographic shifts. Even then, if Wisconsin were to go Clinton’s way, its 10 Electoral College votes would not give her the election.
For that, she would need Stein’s other two proposed recounts to fall her way as well. Clinton lost Michigan by just 10,704 votes. But Trump outpaced her by 1.2 percent in Pennsylvania, a 70,638 vote margin. Only by reversing all of those results would Clinton swing the Electoral College.
That’s going to be a big ask, especially given that there’s no tangible reason to doubt the validity of the results in hand. And if Stein’s real aim is to ensure that there was no hacking involved, a robust audit would likely achieve that with less of a financial burden—especially given that in Wisconsin, the vast majority of counties use paper ballots in the first place.
“Of the 14 Wisconsin jurisdictions with more than 30,000 registered voters, 13 (including Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay, Kenosha) use ballot marking devices,” says Pamela Smith, president of Verified Voting, a non-partisan group dedicated to election security. Nearly all of the fully electronic voting machines in the state are designated for voters with accessibility issues.
So yes, there’s time left in 2016 for one more unpredictable swing. This one, though, would be biggest yet.
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