By Shereen Siewert
A statewide recount of ballots in Wisconsin will cost the Trump campaign about $7.9 million if such action is ordered.
“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.”
Wisconsin does not have automatic recounts even if unofficial results are close. In the November election, Democrat Joe Biden was declared the winner in Wisconsin. According to unofficial results, Biden topped Republican President Donald Trymp by 20,470 votes, or 0.62 percent. That makes the race eligible for recount if the Trump campaign requests one.
The campaign must wait to request a recount until after the last county reports certified results to the state. That is expected to happen on Tuesday, according to the Wisconsin Elections Commission. Then, the Trump campaign has one day to file for a recount. The Wisconsin Legislature changed the deadline from three days to one following the 2016 recount.
Because the margin is more than 0.25 percent, the Trump campaign would be required to prepay estimated costs of the recount at the time the request is made.
The WEC collected recount cost estimates from all 72 Wisconsin counties to arrive at the estimate, which must be paid before a recount can begin. Wolfe said costs for the recount are significantly higher than in 2016 due in part to the need for larger spaces for public observation and social distancing, security, a high number of absentee ballots. The compressed holiday timeframe and high-speed ballot scanning equipment rental also contributed to the high cost, Wolfe said.
If the last county canvass is received on Tuesday as expected, the Trump campaign has until 5 p.m. Wednesday to file for a recount and submit payment. A recount order would occur on Thursday, starting the 13-day recount clock and marking the first day that recount boards can meet.
County boards of canvassers must convene for a recount by 9 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 21 and the recount must be completed by Dec. 1. This is also the legal deadline for the WEC to certify the results from the general election. Recounts must be filed with the WEC by noon Dec. 1.
Wolfe said WEC understands the timeline will be difficult to navigate, but said 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 compressed the timeline.