MILWAUKEE (CN) — President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign officially petitioned for a recount of ballots in two liberal Wisconsin counties on Wednesday, two weeks to the day after the battleground was declared in favor of President-elect Joe Biden by more than 20,000 votes.
The Wisconsin Elections Commission, or WEC, said Wednesday that it received the Trump campaign’s petition for a recount at around 11 a.m. after receiving a wire transfer for the roughly $3 million cost of the recount for Milwaukee and Dane counties, which state law requires the losing candidate to pay in advance.
Trump’s campaign manager promised they would seek a recount almost immediately after CNN and the Associated Press called Wisconsin for Biden on Nov. 4, citing unfounded concerns of voter suppression and “irregularities” casting doubt on the validity of the state’s results.
The president and his supporters were particularly displeased over a late boost of votes Biden got in the early morning hours after Election Day as an unprecedented amount of absentee ballots were counted and reported from Milwaukee, the Badger State’s largest city.
Election officials at every municipal level in the state repeatedly stressed before the election that Milwaukee in particular would need that much time to count and tabulate nearly 170,000 absentee and mail-in ballots and that the delay in reporting results was a sign that the election system was working, not that it was fraudulent. State law did not allow clerks to start counting those ballots until 7 a.m. on Election Day.
Trump had to wait until Wisconsin’s 72 counties completed their canvasses of unofficial results on Tuesday, then had until 5 p.m. Wednesday to formally ask for a recount. The difference in votes between when the Badger State was first called for Biden and the counties completed their canvasses was less than 200, which increased the president-elect’s margin slightly.
The WEC originally estimated that a recount of the entire state would cost around $7.9 million, but Trump opted for a cheaper, narrower recount of the state’s two chief liberal strongholds in Milwaukee and Dane counties, which the WEC estimated would cost around $2 million and $740,000, respectively.
Milwaukee County will conduct a machine recount, whereas the Dane County recount will reportedly be done with a combination of hand and machine counting, according to the elections commission.
Trump is represented in his recount effort by James Troupis from his namesake law firm in Cross Plains, a village in the Madison metro area in Dane County. Troupis previously served as a Dane County Circuit Court judge upon appointment by former Governor Scott Walker in 2015 but resigned the following year in an unsuccessful bid to be appointed to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
The chance of overturning Wisconsin’s results with a recount is a substantial longshot, particularly when considering that the last two major recounts in the state shifted results by only hundreds, not thousands, of votes. Even if Trump prevailed in his recount, the Badger State’s 10 electoral votes alone would not be sufficient to hand him the presidency.
A recount in a 2011 race for a seat on the state high court brought about a 300-vote swing and a recount of the 2016 presidential election results requested by Green Party candidate Jill Stein only bumped Trump’s numbers by 131 votes.
According to 2020’s verified canvass results, Biden beat Trump in Milwaukee County 317,270 votes to 134,357. The president-elect beat the president in Dane County 260,185 to 78,800.
Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, a Rochester Republican, requested the Friday after Election Day that a legislative committee on campaigns and elections chaired by a Republican review the statewide election, using the opportunity to take a shot at “the inefficiency of Milwaukee’s central counting of absentee ballots.”
Vos, perhaps the most powerful Republican in the state, referenced “concerns surfacing about mail-in ballot dumps and voter fraud” as the basis for reviewing the election at that time, but has since conceded that he thinks it’s unlikely the legislative probe will change the election’s outcome.
A federal lawsuit from Trump supporters seeking to invalidate results from Milwaukee and Dane counties, as well as the liberal northern county of Menominee that Biden won, was voluntarily dropped on Monday, the same day similar litigation was dismissed in the Pennsylvania and Michigan battlegrounds the president-elect flipped.
Wisconsin’s recount does not officially start until the recount order is issued on Thursday, and then the two counties’ boards of canvassers must convene to begin the recount by Saturday. The recount must be completed and the results must be filed with the WEC by noon on Dec. 1, the date by which the elections commission also must certify the results from the general election.
State Democrats expressed confidence after the recount’s announcement Wednesday.
Wisconsin Democratic Party Chair Ben Wikler tweeted Wednesday that the margin seems insurmountable and “Trump is kicking up dust,” but nonetheless said party organizers have already been working with counties to recruit and train volunteers and are ready for a recount.