Trump Campaign Gets Recount in Dane, Milwaukee Counties

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By: 
Matt Geiger

WISCONSIN–A petition filed Nov. 18 by a Cross Plains law firm, along with a $3 million wire transfer, has prompted a recount in Dane County, where Democrat Joe Biden defeated Republican Donald Trump by more than three to one in the preliminary vote tally. The filing was followed by a Homeric meeting–it stretched for more than five hours–of the Wisconsin Elections Commission, at the end of which the commission, which was itself the target of an allegation in the petition, voted to proceed with the recount.

The nine-page petition, which was made by Troupis Law Office on behalf of President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, made a series of allegations about the integrity of the election process. While Trump won only 22 percent of the vote in Dane County, he lost the State of Wisconsin by less than one percent, and his team appears to hope disqualifying ballots here, as well as in nearby Milwaukee County, would swing the state in his favor. If Wisconsin were to go from Biden to Trump, it would still not secure enough delegates for the President to win re-election; that would require other recount efforts in other states to be successful as well.

The money wired was to cover the costs of the recount.

The Trump legal team wrote that it believes “mistakes and fraud were committed throughout the State of Wisconsin, including particularly in the City of Madison, the City of Milwaukee, and throughout Dane County and Milwaukee County in the counting and return of votes cast in the election for President of the United States.”

While the petition goes on to state that “voting is a constitutional right, the vigorous exercise of which should be strongly encouraged,” it later adds that “voting by absentee ballot is a privilege exercised wholly outside the traditional safeguards of the polling place.” It states that rigorously encouraging voters to cast absentee ballots could allow several “abuses” including undue influence.

In a statement issued a few days earlier, state election officials strongly refuted claims of fraud in the Nov. 3 election.

“Wisconsin’s election was conducted according to law and in the open,” said Meagan Wolfe, Wisconsin’s chief election official. “While the results are still unofficial and are currently being triple checked as part of the canvass and certification process, we have not seen any credible information to cast any doubt on those unofficial results.

“When issues are reported to our office, we take them very seriously,” she continued. “We look into each allegation and request evidence from parties involved. At this time, no evidence has been provided that supports allegations of systemic or widespread election issues.

“It’s just not true,” Wolfe said of several allegations that had been circulating on social media.

The petition on behalf of the President, however, alleged several abuses. It claimed that election workers violated two state laws when “municipal clerks throughout Wisconsin illegally altered absentee ballot envelopes by independently adding witness addresses to absentee ballot envelopes that were returned to the clerk without a witness address supplied.

“The municipal clerks conducted these illegal actions based on illegal guidance issued by the Wisconsin Election Commission in a memorandum to all municipal clerks dated October 18, 2016,” it went on.

The petition also alleges that municipal clerks in Wisconsin “issued tens of thousands of absentee ballots to electors in direct contravention of” a state statute they say requires clerks to give out absentee ballots only if they receive a written application. They allege that some voters acquired their absentee ballots in person, without making a formal written request and say those should be thrown out. Trump’s team claimed that “more than 60,000 votes were cast in Milwaukee County, where they also requested a recount, using ballots that were illegally issued to voters.”

Another portion of the petition claimed Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell displayed a “clear abuse” of absentee voting rules when he instructed voters in the fall to declare themselves “indefinitely confined” by the global COVID-19 pandemic in order to vote absentee. Trump’s team accused McDonnell of doing so in an effort to allow people to vote “without further need to provide proof of the voter’s identity.” The number of people who indicated they are “indefinitely confined” rose from 72,000 last year to 240,000 this year, due primarily to COVID-19.

“Ballots cast by those claiming to be indefinitely confined who were not in fact indefinitely confined are fraudulent and the ballots must not be counted in the certified vote totals,” the petition stated.

The same petition goes on to allege that Trump’s campaign representatives were not given access to voting counts in Milwaukee County.

“The Petitioners are informed and believe that with further investigation, substantial and additional mistakes and fraud will be discovered,” the petition concluded.

Wisconsin Elections Commission on ordered a partial recount of presidential election results in Dane and Milwaukee counties on the morning of Nov. 19.

The order came following a meeting of the six-member, bipartisan commission late Wednesday at which the commission unanimously approved the recount order.

The recount order requires Dane and Milwaukee counties boards of canvassers (BOCs) to convene by 9 a.m. Nov. 21 and complete their work by noon on Dec. 1. The county BOCs may start their work as early as today.

The Dane County BOC will meet at Monona Terrace in Madison. The Milwaukee County BOC will meet at the Wisconsin Center in Milwaukee.  Each BOC will issue its own public notice for starting and meeting times and must include 24 hours public notice.

At its meeting Wednesday, the WEC also unanimously approved changes to its Recount Manual designed to ensure representatives of both presidential campaigns have access to ballots and other materials during the recount. “… it is clear that the ballots and materials must be available for candidates and their representatives to view and offer any objections to a ballot being counted,” the revised manual states.

The rest of the manual remains unchanged.

The WEC also unanimously approved a three-page memorandum from staff containing Public Health Guidance for Recount Proceedings.

Proposed revisions to the manual about when a county’s Board of Canvassers should examine requests for absentee ballots during a recount were not approved following a series of 3-3 votes. The commission requires four votes to approve a motion.

Separately, the WEC unanimously approved guidance for 190 municipalities that will be conducting voting equipment audits before the certification deadline of Dec. 1. The guidance includes a Nov. 27 deadline for completion of the hand-count audits, which are designed to confirm the accuracy of voting equipment.

“We understand the eyes of the world will be on these Wisconsin counties over the next few weeks,” said Meagan Wolfe, administrator of the WEC and Wisconsin’s chief election official. “We remain committed to providing information about the process and assisting our county clerks by providing facts on the mechanics of a recount and status updates.” 

Here is the timeline for a recount:

Nov. 18, 6 p.m.–The Wisconsin Elections Commission holds a special meeting to discuss details of the partial recount for president and to review supplements to the Recount Manual in light of public health guidance. Information about the meeting and how to attend online is available here: https://elections.wi.gov/node/7247.

Nov. 19–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.

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

Dec. 1–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 Dec. 1.

Complete information about Wisconsin’s recount laws and procedures is available here: https://elections.wi.gov/elections-voting/recount.

 
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