The recounts of Dane and Milwaukee counties made no significant impact on the results of Wisconsin’s presidential election, adding slightly to Joe Biden’s margin of victory.
Still, the process also hinted at the legal strategy behind a possible legal challenge from President Trump seeking to throw out tens of thousands of ballots, including those cast by voters who were following procedures in place for multiple elections.
Trump legal adviser Jenna Ellis said the recounts “revealed serious issues regarding the legality of ballots cast” but offered no specifics.
“As we have said from the very beginning, we want every legal vote, and only legal votes to be counted, and we will continue to uphold our promise to the American people to fight for a free and fair election,” Ellis said.
Danielle Melfi, Biden’s Wisconsin state director, said the boards of canvass in both counties rejected Trump’s “baseless attempts to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites who simply followed the law when they voted.”
“The facts are clear: after ballots were counted and counted again, Joe Biden decisively won Wisconsin by more than 20,000 votes,” Melfi said.
Dane County officials announced this morning the recount resulted in Biden losing 91 votes there and Trump losing 46.
County Clerk Scott McDonell attributed the drawdowns in both candidates’ totals to absentee ballots that were missing the voter’s signature or witness contact information.
In Milwaukee County, where Trump also requested a recount, Biden added 257 votes and Trump added 125.
Trump’s campaign paid $3 million to cover the cost of the recounts in the state’s largest and most Democratic counties with the process resulting in Biden adding 87 votes to his lead.
After the initial canvass of all 72 counties, Biden’s lead over Trump sat at 20,608 votes.
Trump’s campaign has challenged ballots on a series of fronts during the recounts only to be rebuffed by the boards of canvass in both counties.
The Dane County board — composed of two Dem members and one Republican — unanimously signed off on the results of the recount today.
McDonell, a Dem, told reporters after the tabulators found “no concrete example at all of anything improper” in the electoral process. He argued the Trump campaign’s decision to only dispute ballots in Dane and Milwaukee counties was an attempt to create two different standards for ballots because the president’s team didn’t raise similar objections to those cast in other counties.
Among other things, Trump’s campaign sought to disqualify ballots that were cast by those who voted early in person. Those who cast ballots during the early voting period sign an envelope that doubles as an absentee ballot request. But the campaign argued that isn’t sufficient to meet Wisconsin law requiring a written application for an absentee ballot.
The campaign also sought to bar absentee ballots from voters who have declared themselves indefinitely confined and those in which clerks filled in missing information on the envelope, such as the witnesses address information.
Trump’s campaign argued the Elections Commission inappropriately told clerks they can add the missing information — advice that’s been in place since October 2016 — and claimed those who said they were indefinitely confined weren’t following the law.
According to guidance from the Elections Commission, voters can claim they are indefinitely confined due to age, physical illness, infirmity or being disabled for an indefinite period and cannot use it “simply as a means to avoid the photo ID requirement.”
Ahead of the April election, McDonell posted on social media all voters could qualify as indefinitely confined because of Gov. Tony Evers’ stay-at-home order. That prompted a lawsuit that resulted in the state Supreme Court ordering McDonell to refrain from issuing guidance outside of what had been approved by the Elections Commission.
Records from the Elections Commission show in this year’s presidential election, 45,693 voters registered as indefinitely confined returned an absentee ballot in Milwaukee County with an additional 22,519 doing so in Dane County. In the 2016 presidential election, those figures sat at 11,978 in Milwaukee County and 4,569 in Dane County.
Trump tweeted Saturday afternoon, “The Wisconsin recount is not about finding mistakes in the count, it is about finding people who have voted illegally, and that case will be brought after the recount is over, on Monday or Tuesday. We have found many illegal votes. Stay tuned!”
Twitter flagged the tweet for making a claim about election fraud that is disputed.
The Elections Commission chair, Dem appointee Ann Jacobs, is expected to certify the election results on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, two lawsuits have been filed seeking to overturn the results of the Nov. 3 election and instead have the GOP-controlled state Legislature appoint Wisconsin’s electors.
In one filed late Friday, a Chippewa Falls man asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court to declare illegal the drop boxes clerks used around the state so voters could return absentee ballots in person rather than putting them in the mail. The suit seeks to have the ballots placed in drop boxes declared illegal and set aside along with an emergency injunction preventing the Wisconsin Elections Commission from certifying the Nov. 3 election as well as the recount results in Dane and Milwaukee counties.
If ballots from the drop boxes can no longer be identified, the suit wants the election thrown out and the state Supreme Court to direct Wisconsin’s Legislature to choose the state’s electors for the Electoral College.
A separate lawsuit, filed last week by the conservative group Wisconsin Voters Alliance, raised many of the same objections that the Trump campaign did.
The state Supreme Court hasn’t indicated whether it will take up either lawsuit.