MADISON, Wisc. — Wisconsin election officials approved plans for a recount of the state’s presidential vote on Monday, but recommended against a demand by Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein to count the ballots by hand.
Officials promised a quick turnaround of the recount, with plans to start this Thursday after they’ve received full payment from the candidates requesting the recount. They plan to “work continuously” to get the recount done by the night of Dec. 12, said elections supervisor Ross Hein, the day before the federal deadline for states to certify their votes.
President-elect Donald Trump won the state of Wisconsin with 47.9 percent of the vote compared to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s 46.9 percent on November 8. Stein's ticket won 1.1 percent of the vote with under 31,000 votes.
Speaking to press in the state’s capital, Wisconsin election officials maintained they did not believe a recount would alter the outcome of the election.
“I fully expect, given the history of how elections are conducted in Wisconsin and their accuracy and my trust in my citizens who are counting these votes, that the outcome is not going to be different,” said Wisconsin Elections Commission Chair Mark Thomsen, a Democrat.
And in Pennsylvania, Stein ran up against another obstacle in her pursuit of recounts in three key swing states. There, where the deadline to initiate a precinct-by-precinct recount has passed, her campaign announced Monday it filed a lawsuit in court asking for a statewide recount.
Meanwhile, the state of Michigan certified its election results, making Trump the apparent winner there, according to NBC News. That gives Trump the state’s 16 electoral votes and bringing his total to 306 electoral votes overall compared to 232 for Hillary Clinton. It remains highly unlikely that the recounts in those states will change the outcome of the election.
Still, Clinton’s campaign counsel Marc Elias announced this weekend they would be getting involved in the recount effort, and Wisconsin officials clarified Monday that they and the Trump campaign will be allowed to participate in the process by sending representatives to recount sites to monitor the vote.
Stein herself said during an interview on MSNBC that the recount wasn’t intended to change the outcome of the election for any candidate.
“This is not about helping on candidate or hurting another candidate. This is also not about advancing my own career,” she said.
She’s pursuing recounts, she said, because “this is an election in which there has been hacking and allegations of tampering all over the place … we deserve to have peace of mind.”
“This is a grassroots movement that takes a first step towards elections that we can have confidence in and which are for us,” Stein said.
Concerns Over Hacked Voting Machines
That was what Stein’s attorneys suggested in their Pennsylvania lawsuit seeking a full recount.
“To the best of Petitioners’ knowledge and belief, the 2016 Presidential Election was illegal and the return thereof was not correct,” the lawsuit filed by attorney Lawrence Otto said, pointing to the vulnerability of electronic voting machines, the apparent hack of the DNC and Clinton campaign chair John Podesta’s emails, and pre-election polling suggesting a far different election result than what took place on November 8.
“A primary purpose of the recounts now being requested, Petitioners believe, is or should be to determine if computer intrusions or hacking of electronic systems impacted the results in the 2016 Presidential election.”
The lawsuit relies primarily on the assessment of University of Michigan computer scientist Alex Halderman as evidence.
In Wisconsin, election officials have vigorously refuted any speculation their machines could’ve been hacked and defended the integrity of the vote.
Wisconsin Elections Administrator Michael Haas noted their machines are tested both at the federal level and the state level “for technical standards, how the equipment works, [and] security standards,” and said hackers would need “unfettered physical access to voting equipment” to truly tamper with the machines.
“We’ve said many times that there are a number of reasons why we are skeptical of any claims that voting equipment is either not working correctly or being tampered with in the state of Wisconsin,” Haas said.
Officials Refute Trump’s Claims of Voter Fraud
But even as Wisconsin election officials were defending the integrity of the vote in their state, the president-elect raised doubts about voting nationwide with a pair of tweets in which he asserted, without evidence, that he “won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally” and that there is “serious voter fraud in Virginia, New Hampshire and California.”
Asked to provide evidence of Trump’s claims, adviser Jason Miller offered a 45-page document with a list of articles outlining a handful of allegations and substantiated incidents of voter fraud. Miller declined to say whether Trump would request a Justice Department review of the nation’s voting systems, but he again called the Green Party’s recount effort a “fraud.”
“The media appears obsessed with a fraudulent, money-driven recount effort into a conceded election, so we’re simply elevating actual instances of voting irregularities. Let’s look at actual concerns, not shiny objects thrown out there by candidates who received less than 1 percent of the vote now looking to make a buck, or $6 million bucks to be more accurate,” he said, though FEC rules likely prevent Jill Stein's campaign from spending money raised for a recount effort elsewhere.
Trump’s tweets were roundly criticized by election officials across the U.S.
Officials in New Hampshire and Virginia said, respectively, that there was “no evidence” of voter fraud in New Hampshire and that Trump’s Virginia claim was “unfounded.”
California Secretary of State Alex Padilla called Trump’s claims “absurd” in a statement.
“His unsubstantiated allegations of voter fraud in California and elsewhere are absurd. His reckless tweets are inappropriate and unbecoming of a president-elect,” he said.
And Thomson, the chair of the Wisconsin Elections Commission, slammed Trump for “feeding … this conspiracy theory” with his comments.
“I think it is most unfortunate that the president-elect is claiming that there's huge problems with our system and that's feeding what I call this conspiracy theory,” said Wisconsin Elections Commission Chair Mark Thomsen, a Democrat, at a press conference on the recount effort.
Thomsen went on to call for Trump to “come down out of his Trump Tower” and observe the vote himself.
“To say that it's not being fair or ... that people are counting illegal votes, from my vantage point, is an insult to the people that run our elections,” he added.