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Wisconsin 2020 election results: Biden projected to win, but Trump plans to ask for recount

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Joe Biden won Wisconsin's 10 electoral votes, CBS News projected Wednesday. He held onto a narrow lead of 20,510 votes, a 0.4% edge over President Trump. Wisconsin was one of three states President Trump flipped in 2016 that launched him into the White House, when he won it by a similarly slim margin of 22,748 votes.

The Trump campaign has said it will request a recount.

Absentee ballots cast in Milwaukee County that trickled in early Wednesday morning provided Joe Biden with a narrow lead in the critical swing state. The county is the largest in the state, encompassing the city of Milwaukee. With the ballots from Milwaukee, Biden's lead in the state widened to around 11,000 votes. By late Wednesday morning his lead had grown to over 20,000.

Mr. Trump made 10 campaign trips to Wisconsin since January 2019. Five came since mid-October. His final stop in Wisconsin was a rally in Kenosha on the night before Election Day. Biden made three trips to the Badger State and was most recently in Milwaukee on Friday night.


Wisconsin secretary of state warns unsupported claims of voter fraud "erode confidence in our democracy"

Wisconsin Secretary of State Kim Wyman, a Republican, warned of the dangers of pushing unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud and urged Americans not to "undermine to integrity of our elections" while elections officials continue to count votes.

"Prematurely casting doubt or making sweeping claims of fraud without citing any evidence does nothing but erode confidence in our democracy," Wyman said in a statement. "At the end of the day, voters decide elections, not candidates."

Wyman said those awaiting an outcome in the presidential race should give elections officials the needed time to process and count ballots and advised them to not "jump to conclusions just because it takes time to determine the outcome of an election."

"As the chief elections officer for a state that has been conducting vote-by-mail elections for nearly 10 years, I can tell you processing mail-in ballots takes time, and there are numerous processes in place to ensure the results accurately reflect the way people voted," she said.

CBS News projected Biden won the state of Wisconsin, flipping the battleground state Mr. Trump won in 2016.

By Melissa Quinn

Ex-Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker says Trump faces "high hurdle" in recount

Former Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker on Trump campaign's calls for a recount 05:38

Former Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker told "CBS This Morning" on Thursday that a recount in his state could be warranted, but offered little assurance to the Trump campaign. CBS News projected Biden to win the state Wednesday afternoon.

"With millions of votes cast, you're talking about less than 1% — about 0.7% of the vote is the difference between the two candidates," Walker said. "So right now today, if nothing else changed, that is indeed a high hurdle

As of Thursday morning, Biden holds a lead of more than 20,000 votes with 99% of the expected votes reported. According to Walker, past Wisconsin recounts have changed the result by hundreds of votes, not thousands, which would not make a difference for the president. 

The former Republican governor said he still supports a recount, but only after the local canvassing process, now underway, is complete. State rules require counties to canvass results and turn them over to the state by November 17. 

"Be ready for a recount, but wait till after the canvass," he said.

Walker said he has not seen evidence of voter fraud in his state, but claimed that surges in votes cast by newly registered voters on Election Day "raises a red flag." Wisconsin is one of a handful of states that allows voter registration on Election Day, and both parties pushed hard to increase turnout, particularly among Black voters. 

"We have same-day voter registration. So it is clearly possible that you had a surge," Walker said. "But I think it's worth at least checking in to make sure those numbers match up with the number of people registered on that day."

"Typically, when you have problems out there it's not corruption, it's somebody made an error," he said. "This may not be an error, but you need to at least check into things like that."

In Wisconsin, the candidate who wants a recount has to pay for it. Asked whether a recount is worth the cost for Mr. Trump, Walker noted that only one state election in recent memory came close to making the vote difference the president would need.  

"Let's take a breath, let's do the canvass, let's not declare a winner until the canvasses are complete," Walker said. "And once that's done, if there's a big margin out there, then it is indeed difficult to go over that kind of a hurdle."

By Audrey McNamara

Trump campaign plans to "immediately" request recount in Wisconsin

Bill Stepien, Mr. Trump's campaign manager, said the Trump campaign will "immediately" request a recount in Wisconsin and is "well within" the threshold to do so. Biden currently leads Mr. Trump by more than 20,000 votes, with 99% of the expected total accounted for.

"Despite ridiculous public polling used as a voter suppression tactic, Wisconsin has been a razor thin race as we always knew that it would be," Stepien said in a statement. "There have been reports of irregularities in several Wisconsin counties which raise serious doubts about the validity of the results."

In Wisconsin, the candidate trailing in the results can request a recount if they are within 1% of the margin of victory, according to the state's manual outlining the process.

A candidate has three days to request a recount from when the last county reports its official results to the state, Wisconsin Elections Commission Administrator Meagan Wolfe told reporters in a briefing. Counties have until November 17 to report their results to the state.

The recount process is conducted at the county level, Wolfe said. 

Biden currently holds a lead of 20,533 votes out of a total 3,240,329 ballots cast, a lead of 0.6 percentage points. That lead could change if more votes are reported — CBS News still characterizes the race as a toss-up. Roughly 300 ballots in Willow Township, in Richland County, have yet to be counted, Wolfe said.

A recount requested in Wisconsin by third-party candidate Jill Stein in 2016 did little to change the outcome, with Mr. Trump actually adding 131 votes to his margin of victory over Hillary Clinton.

By Melissa Quinn

Wisconsin's chief election official discusses the recount process

Wisconsin's chief election official, Meagan Wolfe, discussed the recount process Wednesday in a post-election briefing. 

Watch the full briefing here: 

Wisconsin's chief election official discusses the recount process 28:31

Governor Tony Evers says "election doesn't end when an elected official says they won"

Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers said early Wednesday that clerks and election workers were continuing to work, as the state remained a toss-up.

And he appeared to push back against President Trump's false claim that he won the election. 

"An election doesn't end when an elected official says they won—it ends when every vote has been counted," Evers tweeted. 

CBS News still estimates that the state is a toss-up. In 2016, he won it by the slim margin of 22,748 votes.


Wisconsin Elections Commission statement on unofficial results and next steps

Meagan Wolfe, Wisconsin's chief election official, issued the following statement:

"Wisconsin's counting and reporting of unofficial results has gone according to law. Our municipal and county clerks have worked tirelessly throughout the night to make sure every valid ballot is counted and reported accurately.  Those unofficial results are available on the county clerks' websites."

"Today, the Wisconsin Elections Commission staff will be standing ready to assist clerks as they start the process of triple-checking the results. This includes randomly selecting 5% of reporting units for voting equipment audits which must occur before results are certified as required by law on December 1."


Results start trickling in from Milwaukee County

CBS News estimates Wisconsin is still at toss up early Wednesday morning, as results from absentee ballots cast in Milwaukee County trickled in. The county is the largest in the state, encompassing the city of Milwaukee, which trends Democratic. 

Results from absentee ballots from Green Bay and Kenosha, two other cities that skew Democratic, have yet to be released.

Biden is expected to gain an advantage in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania as the results of absentee ballots are reported. Many Democrats opted to vote absentee due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.

By Grace Segers

Swing counties could help decide 2020 presidential race

A reason Wisconsin could be so critical this year is because of how narrowly President Donald Trump won the state in 2016, by just under 24,000 votes, or less than one percent of the total vote, in large part because of how many counties went from blue to red.

Twenty-three of Wisconsin's 72 counties flipped in 2016, and all of those swing counties flipped from voting for President Barack Obama in 2012 to voting for President Trump in 2016.

No Wisconsin counties flipped the other way.

In eight of those counties, President Trump won by just a small voting margin compared to the number of votes President Obama got in 2012.

For instance, in Kenosha County, President Obama won by about 10,000 votes in 2012. President Trump won Kenosha County by just 109 votes in 2016.

So Kenosha is one of eight counties that could flip back, and based on vote totals from four years ago, that could potentially swing Wisconsin right back into the blue.

Read more at CBS Chicago


Election Day

Polls close in Wisconsin at 9 p.m. ET. Absentee ballots must be delivered to the location where they are being counted by 9 p.m. ET. Wisconsin communities could hold early in-person absentee voting from October 20 - November 1. More than 1.9 million Wisconsinites had already voted going into Election Day, the largest number of absentee ballots ever cast in a Wisconsin election. 

Municipal clerks were not able to start processing and counting ballots until polls opened on Election Day. Once the counting process begins, election officials cannot stop it. Most absentee ballots are counted at polling sites, but some communities, most notably Milwaukee, count all of their absentee ballots at one facility. Those communities using a central count facility must count all of their absentee ballots before they can report absentee results. 

Milwaukee's top elections official has said it may be early on Wednesday morning before the city reports its absentee ballots.

By Adam Brewster

State of the race

President Trump was the first Republican to win Wisconsin since Ronald Reagan in 1984. But he won the state with about 2,600 fewer total votes than Mitt Romney did in 2012 when he lost to Barack Obama.

Mr. Trump's success was partly driven by his performance among White voters without college degrees, a group he won 62% to 34%, according to exit polls. CBS News polling shows Biden may be making inroads into Mr. Trump's support with these voters. Its October 18 poll showed the president's lead among this group of voters dwindling to 52% to 46%. Overall, CBS News' polling before Election Day showed Biden with a 5-point advantage over Mr. Trump.

Specifically, the president is seeing a drop in support with White men, a group he won by more than 20 points four years ago, but that he led by just 7 points in October. White non-college educated men have gone from supporting Mr. Trump by more than 40 points in 2016 to just 15 points in mid-October. The decrease in that margin is a major reason for Biden's standing in Wisconsin. 

In northeast Wisconsin, the BOW (Brown, Outagmie and Winnegabo) counties are filled with working-class voters and Mr. Trump collectively won these counties by 10.3 points in 2016. Romney carried the BOW counties by just 0.2 points in 2012, after Mr. Obama won them by 10.8 points in 2008. Republicans still had a strong showing in 2018, but won the counties by 7.8 points, a smaller margin than in 2016. 

Western Wisconsin is also home to many working-class communities and helped put Mr. Trump over the top four years ago. He flipped more than a dozen counties along the Mississippi River and in the "Driftless Area" in the southwest corner, but Democrats won back some of that territory in the 2018 midterms. 

Mr. Trump cobbled together victories in several small cities, towns and villages around rural Wisconsin to build his winning 2016 coalition. Craig Gilbert of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel notes that the 46 "non-metro" counties make up about 25% of the state's vote but accounted for 60% of the raw vote shift toward the GOP from 2012 to 2016.

Democrats are also hoping to cut into the GOP's margins in the suburbs. The WOW counties (Waukesha, Ozaukee and Washington) in suburban Milwaukee have been the lifeblood of the Wisconsin GOP. While suburbs around the country have turned more Democratic in recent elections, these have remained solidly Republican territory in Wisconsin. 

Scott Walker won the three counties by more than 44 points collectively in 2010 and 2014. But the counties were softer for Mr. Trump, who won them collectively by 28.3 points in 2016. However, there are also some Democratic and swing suburbs immediately outside of Milwaukee and the heavily Democratic suburbs outside of Madison. An analysis by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel showed the suburbs were the kind of community around Wisconsin where Republicans lost ground from 2012 to 2016, although it was a small drop. 

In 2018, Walker's margins fell 10 points in the suburbs compared to 2014. Biden led the CBS News October Battleground tracker 55% to 41% among White voters with college degrees. In 2016 exit polls, Mr Trump won this group 51% to 43%. Among independents, Biden led 51% to 42% going into Election Day, while 2016 exit polling showed Trump won the group 50%-40%. 

Democrats also took steps to try to boost turnout in Milwaukee after it dropped in 2016 from 2012 by about 40,000 votes. Wisconsin Public Radio reported some of the largest drops were in the predominantly Black neighborhoods. Biden held a small event in the city on Friday night, and his state headquarters is also in the city.

Voter ID is also an issue. A 2017 University of Wisconsin survey of registered voters who didn't participate in the 2016 election found that 27.5% of Black registered voters were deterred by the state's voter ID law. The city as a whole has become more solidly Democratic in recent years. While turnout fell in Milwaukee in 2016, Hillary Clinton won the city by 58.1 points, a slightly bigger margin than Mr. Obama in 2008, but still just under Mr. Obama's 2012 margins.

By Adam Brewster

The issues


Wisconsin has experienced one of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in the country this fall. Since September 1, cases have nearly tripled in Wisconsin and deaths have increased from 1,130 on September 1 to more than 2,000 cumulative deaths due to the virus as of November 1, according to the state Department of Health

As is the case in Michigan, Wisconsin elected a Democratic governor, Tony Evers, in 2018, but Republicans maintained control of both legislative chambers. Like Governor Gretchen Whitmer in Michigan, Evers faced pushback from Republicans claiming he was abusing his power in enacting anti-COVID measures.

On May 13, the Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down his administration's safer-at-home order. Evers also issued a statewide mask mandate in July and renewed it  until at least November 21. He recently set limits on public gatherings, but that has faced legal challenges. Wisconsin voters seem receptive to measures like this, though. An October CBS News Battleground Tracker found that more Wisconsin voters said Biden, who has indicated he'd also aggressively promote such measures, would do a better job handling the coronavirus outbreak (53%-34%). It also showed that among Biden voters, 92% said how he'd handle COVID-19 is a "big factor" in why they're voting for him. Forty-two percent of Trump voters said the president's handling COVID-19 is why they're voting for him. 

A September CBS News Battleground Tracker found  61% of Wisconsin voters said the coronavirus was a "major factor" in their vote, after the economy (81%) and healthcare (66%). That poll also showed more people trusted Biden to make a safe vaccine available (45%-33%).

The Economy

CBS News' October 18 Battleground Tracker showed Mr. Trump with a slight edge on who would better handle the economy, with 47% of likely voters saying he would better handle the economy and 46% said Biden would be better. The vast majority of Trump voters — 92% — said the economy was a big factor in why they're voting for the president. And 72% of Biden's voters said the way he'll handle the economy is a big factor in why they're voting for him.  


As in other Midwestern states, critics blame trade deals for a loss in manufacturing jobs. Manufacturing jobs are down more than 9% from January 1994, the year NAFTA was signed, to 484,200 in February 2020 (pre-COVID), according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics

Jobs increased during the early years of the Obama administration, before plateauing in the mid-2010s then picking up again during the Trump administration. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce slammed the president's trade war and tariff policies, noting that trade affects more than 800,000 Wisconsin jobs. Wisconsin has seen manufacturing jobs fall during COVID but start to bounce back. 

One of the manufacturing deals struck by Mr. Trump that hasn't lived up to its initial promises was the Foxconn plant in Mt. Pleasant, just outside of Milwaukee. It was supposed to employ 13,000 workers and was to receive up to $3 billion in subsidies from taxpayers. At the groundbreaking ceremony in 2018, President Trump called it the "eighth wonder of the world." In 2019, Reuters reported that Foxconn was reconsidering plans to make display panels at the facility and planned to "hire mostly engineers and researchers rather than the manufacturing workforce the project originally promised." In October, Wisconsin informed Foxconn that it wouldn't qualify for tax credits because it hadn't created enough jobs, but Foxconn is challenging that decision, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. 

Dairy farming crisis

Wisconsin lost 10% of its dairy farms in 2019, according to the state's Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, and led the nation in farm bankruptcy filings, according to the American Farm BureauWisconsin Public Radio reports that a "prolonged period of low milk prices from 2014 to 2019" forced a number of farms to sell their herds. 

Racial inequality

One of the major moments of the presidential campaign came on August 23, when a Kenosha police officer shot Jacob Blake seven times in the back, leaving Blake paralyzed. The shooting led to protests in Kenosha, a city that's 11.5% Black, and in the nights that followed, there was violence after sundown.

The governor sent some members of the National Guard, but local leaders said it was not enough to control the situation. There was looting and fires were set at some businesses. On August 25, Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17 year old from Illinois, allegedly shot and killed two protesters while he was with a group of armed men. 

In the aftermath of Mr. Trump's visit to Kenosha, the September CBS News Battleground Tracker found 45% of people approved of Mr. Trump's handling of the protests about how Black Americans are treated by police, while 55% disapproved. More voters said he was trying to encourage fighting (43%) than calm the situation (40%). Fifty percent felt Biden was trying to calm the situation. A large majority, 88%, of people said they support peaceful protesters in that poll, and 80% said they support local police. 

By Adam Brewster
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