Deadline fast approaching for recount request in Wisconsin

NOW: Deadline fast approaching for recount request in Wisconsin

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Milwaukee County Election Commission officials certified the election results Monday morning, Nov. 16. If a recount is ordered by the Trump campaign, the deadline is fast approaching. 

“We still have not received any indication that there will or will not be a recount,” said Meagan Wolfe, Wisconsin’s chief election official. “But we want Wisconsin’s voters to know we are ready.”

A recount would be done at the Wisconsin Center. There would be 300 workers and up to 100 observers. They chose the Wisconsin Center to allow a safe process during the pandemic.

A recount needs to be ordered by Wednesday, Nov. 18 at 5 p.m., and it would start the following day. 

It's estimated to cost $2 million and it would be covered the Trump campaign or whoever ordered it. Part of that readiness from the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) includes collecting recount cost estimates from all 72 counties and assembling a statewide estimate, which must be paid before any recount can begin.

“Our county clerks have carefully estimated their costs for recounting 3.2 million ballots, which is approximately $7.9 million,” Wolfe said in a news release. “These estimates are significantly higher than the actual costs of the 2016 recount, but they take into account factors not present four years ago, including the need for larger spaces to permit public observation and social distancing, security for those spaces, the higher number of absentee ballots, a compressed timeframe over a holiday, and renting high-speed ballot scanning equipment.”

Officials say a recount would look similar to how ballots were counted on Election Day. 

"We open the ballots and we basically do just that. We go through the same process we went through. How many ballots did you say you had on Election Day? Count your ballots. They count their ballots. They send their ballots through the machine. They get the tape totals. If there are any discrepancies between the tape totals then that’s when they have to explain that to the board," said Milwaukee County Election Commission Director, Julietta Henry. 

Last week, the WEC contacted the presidential campaigns to inform them of the procedures for requesting a recount. A copy of the letter is below: 

If a recount is ordered, election officials will have to complete the process by Dec. 1. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2020 – The last county canvass is received. There are several counties outstanding, and some have indicated they will not be finished before November 17.

Wednesday, November 18 by 5:00 p.m. – The deadline for the aggrieved presidential candidate to file for a recount and submit payment.

Thursday, November 19, 2020 – The Commission Chair issues the Recount Order. This starts the 13-day recount clock and is also the first day that recount boards can meet.

Saturday, November 21, 2020 at 9:00 a.m. – The deadline by which county boards of canvassers must convene for the recount (no later than 9:00 a.m. on the third day after the recount order is issued).

Tuesday, December 1, 2020 – The deadline to complete the recount. This is also the deadline, under Wisconsin law, for WEC to certify results from the General Election. Therefore, recounts must be completed and results must be filed with WEC by noon on December 1, 2020.

Wolfe said WEC understands the timeline will be difficult to navigate, but noted that state law does not account for the many challenges on the calendar, including the Thanksgiving holiday. The Wisconsin Legislature changed the recount law in 2017, shortening the recount request window, which compresses the timeline even more than in 2016.

Recount Facts

  • Wisconsin does not have automatic recounts, even if the unofficial results are extremely close.
  • The second-place candidate must wait to request a recount until after the last county reports its certified results to the state. This is expected to happen on November 17.
  • For presidential recounts, the aggrieved candidate has just one day to file for a recount. The Wisconsin Legislature changed this deadline from three days to one day following the 2016 presidential recount.
  • According to unofficial results, the margin of victory between the top two presidential candidates is 20,470 votes, or 0.62%, which makes the race eligible for recount if the losing candidate wishes to request one.
  • Because the margin is more than 0.25%, the aggrieved candidate must prepay the estimated costs of the recount at the time of requesting it.
  • Complete information about Wisconsin’s recount laws and procedures is available HERE
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