Washington — President Trump's campaign will seek a recount in two Wisconsin counties, it said Wednesday, alleging without presenting evidence that absentee ballots were illegally issued and altered, and county clerks advised voters on how to skirt the state's voter ID laws.
The campaign said it is filing a petition with the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) for a recount in Milwaukee and Dane counties due to the purported irregularities and has transferred $3 million to the state to cover the cost of the recounts.
"The people of Wisconsin deserve to know whether their election processes worked in a legal and transparent way," Jim Troupis, counsel to the campaign, said in a statement. "Regrettably, the integrity of the election results cannot be trusted without a recount in these two counties and uniform enforcement of Wisconsin absentee ballot requirements. We will not know the true results of the election until only the legal ballots cast are counted."
George Christenson, the Milwaukee County Clerk, told reporters that the recount would prove that election officials followed the rules.
"We follow WEC guidelines, our municipal clerks follow all the rules and it's as simple as that," Christenson said. "(The recount) will show that that everything was done by the book."
Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell told Wisconsin Public Radio, "We went through this recount (process) four years ago with the Trump campaign, and they said at that time that I ran an excellent recount."
CBS News projected President-elect Joe Biden won the state of Wisconsin and its 10 electoral votes by more than 20,500 votes. In Dane County, Mr. Biden leads Mr. Trump by more than 181,000 votes, and in Milwaukee County, the president-elect is ahead by more than 182,000 votes.
Reversing that lead would be nearly impossible, as even statewide recounts typically change voting totals by just hundreds of votes.
"They've actually limited their ability to potentially overcome the relatively large 20,000 vote margin, by looking at only a small portion of Wisconsin overall," CBS News election law expert David Becker said. "So it's almost impossible — even with a statewide recount — that they would be able to net even a tiny fraction of the 20,000 vote margin. And they're only looking at a small portion of Wisconsin, so the likelihood is even less. Their chances are about as close to zero as you can get."
To retake the White House, the president would need more than just the state of Wisconsin. An audit and recount in the state of Georgia is already underway and expected to finish Wednesday night, and Mr. Biden is currently leading by 12,781 votes.
On Monday, the Wisconsin Elections Commission released county-by-county estimates for recounts and said that the COVID-19 pandemic was making it more expensive than four years ago. Meagan Wolfe, Wisconsin's chief election official, said in a statement that election officials had to "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."
The Trump campaign has been fundraising aggressively after the election, courting big bundlers on weekly campaign calls and soliciting online donors for contributions to its "Election Defense Fund." But the small print below the solicitation indicates that online contributions of less than $5,000and will instead only benefit President Trump's new PAC, "Save America" and the Republican National Committee.
While Mr. Biden was projected the winner of the presidential contest and secured 306 electoral votes — well over the 270 needed to declare victory — Mr. Trump has yet to acknowledge he lost his reelection bid and has instead been falsely declaring himself the winner. The president and his campaign have made unsubstantiated claims that illegal votes were cast in several key battleground states, including Wisconsin, and have mounted a slew of longshot legal battles that aim to delay certification of election results.
In Wisconsin, a candidate can request a recount if he or she is within the 1% margin of victory, and it must be completed by December 1. A recount of results in the entire state would have cost nearly $8 million.
It's unlikely the partial recount will change the election results in Wisconsin. In 2016, Jill Stein paid $3.5 million for a recount in the state, and it increased Mr. Trump's margin of victory over Hillary Clinton by 131 votes, after he had won by 22,748 votes. When Stein made her request for the recount, Mr. Trump called it a "scam," noting that Secretary Hillary Clinton had already conceded the election.
Once the recount begins, both counties will have 13 days to complete the process.