President Trump seeking a recount in two Wisconsin counties
President Donald Trump requested a recount in two Wisconsin counties Wednesday. The recount petition says large numbers of votes in Milwaukee and Dane counties—Wisconsin’s two most Democrat areas, are illegitimate and should be thrown out. Democrats disagree with the Trump campaign’s claims of illegal ballots and immediately convened a Zoom meeting of the Wisconsin Elections Commission on Wednesday night to discuss proposed changes to the manual that guides recounts and authorize the recount. The Wisconsin Elections Commission has three Republicans and three Democrats.
Reince Priebus, who comes from Wisconsin, was suspect of the special meeting and proposed changes. “Let’s get this straight,” he said, “the Trump campaign sent the Wisconsin Election Commission $3 mill and filed its petition for a recount. Then the WEC immediately called a special meeting to change certain recount rules that deal with the issues brought up in the petition? You can’t make this up!”
Let’s get this straight.
The Trump campaign sent the Wis Election Comm. $3 mill and filed its petition for a recount. Then the WEC immediately called a special meeting to change certain recount rules that deal with the issues brought up in the petition? You can’t make this up!
— Reince Priebus (@Reince) November 19, 2020
Wisconsin Election Commission (WEC) meeting
The meeting lasted five and a half hours. Commissioners were debating fervently, suggesting the recount, too, will be brutal and most likely end up in court. They argued about the changes proposed by Democrats on the Commission: that clerks not be required to provide the original absentee ballot applications for the absentee ballots, and that Covid-19 concerns should dictate how the recount is observed. The commission deadlocked 3-3, so it did not authorize any changes, but the recount was approved.
The Republicans on the commission said, “Why change this now right before the recount—especially when so much of the president’s argument has to do with absentee ballot applications.” Republican Commissioner Dean Knudson contended that all the absentee ballots requested through the state’s online portal were invalid because of how the system logs those requests. He said, “I hope we haven’t created a system at Wisconsin Election Commission where, you know, we somehow entice people into requesting a ballot that isn’t actually in keeping with the law.” Knudson then questioned whether Democrat county clerks would treat recount observers fairly—Democrats are in charge of the recount because it takes place in Democrat counties. He said, “If they can figure out a way using the pandemic to . . . make it harder to see what’s going on, to make it harder to observe, then that wouldn’t be out of character because Democrats have been trying to do that for six months.” Commissioner Mark Thomsen, a Democrat, objected to Knudson’s maligning and pointed out that “Trump didn’t complain about Wisconsin’s election policies in 2016 when he narrowly won the state. Trump’s complaints now are baseless.”
The Democrats said if they could not agree on the recount manual’s changes, the counties should follow the state’s recount law. Thomsen added deadlock meant the state’s manual now comes with an asterisk. Knudson was not in agreement with this characterization, so he quipped, “We never voted on an asterisk.”
Concerning what ballots will be kept or thrown out, Knudson concluded, “This is going to be for the courts to decide. I don’t believe it’s for us to decide.”
The Duo of @BobSpindell and @deanknudson has provided a template for Republicans in GA, MI, NV, PA. Bob term runs out in May 2021, he deserves to be reappointment https://t.co/JsS6dOpEdq https://t.co/Qz0dwxHTAV pic.twitter.com/NPIQa4jDkU
— Chris Lawrence (@chrislawrence87) November 19, 2020
Trump campaign’s main points of dispute with ballots in Wisconsin.
Witness addresses. Valid absentee ballots in Wisconsin need to arrive in an envelope signed by the voter and a witness, along with the witness’ address. Where witnesses failed to give their address, election clerks were allowed to fill the addresses in on the voter’s behalf, either through calling the voter, calling the witness, looking at voter rolls, or tax databases to get the information.
The Trump campaign asserts that this guideline is not state law.
Absentee ballot applications According to Wisconsin law, voters, are to apply for absentee ballots in writing. The Trump campaign says more than 60,000 voters in Milwaukee did not submit written applications. According to elections officials, those voters signed a statement on ballot envelopes labeled “absentee ballot application/certification.” The Trump campaign disputes this way of application’s legality and stated that it “conflicts with Wisconsin’s absentee voting safeguards. Wisconsin law expressly requires that absentee ballots may not be issued without receiving a written application requesting the ballot.”
Indefinitely confined voters At the start of the pandemic, County Clerks Scott McDonell and County Clerk George Christenson, for Dane and Milwaukee respectively, suggested voters could label themselves indefinitely confined if they were staying at home because of the coronavirus pandemic. This meant swaths of voters did not need to show a photo ID to get a ballot. During court elections in April, the state Republican Party disputed the legality of this advice and sued. The state Supreme Court found the advice was faulty.
For the Presidential election, around 215,000 voters across Wisconsin called themselves indefinitely confined, rising from the 72,000 who classified themselves such for the earlier election. The Trump campaign argues that ballots should be thrown out for voters who said they were indefinitely confined if they do not meet the criteria.
The recount commenced on Friday, and county clerks rejected many of the Trump campaign’s requests not to include illegal ballots. Trump campaign lawyers can now file a lawsuit in dispute, that will end up in Wisconsin’s state Supreme Court. The court has 4-3 majority favoring Republican appointees.
Preparations are under way for Dane County’s recount at the Monona Terrace. pic.twitter.com/7rV7ln7qW6
— Patrick Marley (@patrickdmarley) November 20, 2020
The recount is to be finished by Dec. 1, in time for the state Elections Commission to certify the state’s vote.
Federal law, via the “safe-harbor” provision, gives Wisconsin until Dec. 8 to certify its results. The Electoral College meets on Dec. 14 to determine the presidency, and Congress counts the electoral votes on Jan. 6. If Wisconsin misses the safe-harbor deadline, it is possible Congress, not Wisconsin officials, would then determine the results of the state’s election.