Poll workers prepare absentee ballots at Franklin's central count facility. Franklin is located in southwest Milwaukee County. Photo by David Wise, Nov. 3, 2020.

The Trump campaign will have to pay nearly $8 million by 5 p.m. tomorrow if it wants a statewide recount of this month’s presidential election.

The state Elections Commission yesterday afternoon released estimates pegging the cost of a recount calculated by all 72 Wisconsin counties as well as the commission at $7.9 million. Under state law, the Trump campaign must file for a recount and pay those costs up front within one business day of the state receiving the last county canvass in order to initiate the process.

Trump legal adviser Jenna Ellis said, “The legal team continues to examine the issues with irregularities in Wisconsin and are leaving all legal options open, including a recount and an audit.” Ellis offered no specifics of any alleged irregularities.

The deadline for counties to certify results and turn them over to the state is today. Rock and Wood counties’ canvasses are still outstanding as o 8 a.m.

The estimated costs across all 72 counties more than double the estimated costs counties provided to the state in 2016, when Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein filed for a recount. The final costs of the 2016 recount came in just over $2 million, roughly $1.8 million less than counties had originally projected. The difference between the estimate paid by Stein’s campaign and the actual cost was reimbursed.

Elections Commission Administrator Meagan Wolfe had indicated over the last two weeks she expected costs of a recount of this year’s election would be a lot higher than in 2016.

On top of usual recount expenses like tables, pens, voting equipment and staff wages, Wolfe said counties could include the costs of PPE and hygienic equipment like plexiglass barriers. The estimated total for supplies, a category which includes “PPE and other safety supplies,” sits at just over $92,000.

Wolfe also said some jurisdictions may seek to rent a bigger space to comply with social distancing protocols. According to the estimates the commission released, at least 24 counties have included space rentals totaling just under $970,000 as part of their projected budgets.

The bulk of those costs come from Milwaukee County, which estimates space rental would cost $649,600 over the course of the 10-day recount process. Overall, Milwaukee County’s estimated costs came in at just over $2 million, roughly a quarter of the overall price tag.

Waukesha and Dane counties have the next highest estimated costs for space rental at around $82,000 each.

State law on recounts has also changed since 2016 and the state can now charge for estimated expenses. Wolfe told reporters those expenses would mainly come in the form of reimbursements for commission staff time spent on the recount. The release from the commission indicates the state’s estimated expenses are less than $30,000.

Still, Trump’s campaign could see a much lower bill if it seeks a more targeted recount.

Wolfe said last week the party requesting the recount can choose where it happens, down to the county, municipal and even ward level.

A commission spokesman told WisPolitics.com that should the Trump campaign seek a targeted recount, it would only have to pay the estimated costs from the affected jurisdictions.

See the estimated county costs.

See the release.

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