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Here’s What Wisconsin’s Recount Law Says and What It Means for Trump

Just before noon on Wednesday, projections started to filter in saying that more than 3.2 million votes have been counted in Wisconsin and Joe Biden beat Donald Trump in the state by a margin of just over 20,000 votes.

Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien already said earlier in the day that it looked like Wisconsin was in “recount territory.” Based on the currently projected 1-percent or less margin and the laws on the books in the state, Stepien appears to be correct.

Here’s what Wisconsin statute has to say about the when, why, and how of an “aggrieved” party seeking a recount in an election of this magnitude [emphases ours]:

9.01  Recount.
(1)  Petition; fees; general procedures.
(a)
1. Any candidate voted for at any election who is an aggrieved party, as determined under subd. 5., or any elector who voted upon any referendum question at any election may petition for a recount. The petitioner shall file a verified petition or petitions with the proper clerk or body under par. (ar) not earlier than the time of completion of the canvass following canvassing of any valid provisional ballots under s. 6.97 (4) and, except as provided in this subdivision, not later than 5 p.m. on the 3rd business day following the last meeting day of the municipal or county board of canvassers determining the election for that office or on that referendum question following canvassing of all valid provisional ballots or, if more than one board of canvassers makes the determination, not later than 5 p.m. on the 3rd business day following the last meeting day of the last board of canvassers which makes a determination following canvassing of all valid provisional ballots. If the commission chairperson or chairperson’s designee makes the determination for the office or the referendum question, the petitioner shall file the petition not earlier than the last meeting day of the last county board of canvassers to make a statement in the election or referendum following canvassing of all valid provisional ballots and not later than 5 p.m. on the 3rd business day following the day on which the commission receives the last statement from a county board of canvassers for the election or referendum following canvassing of all valid provisional ballots. With regard to an election for president, the petitioner shall file the petition not later than 5 p.m. on the first business day following the day on which the commission receives the last statement from a county board of canvassers for the election following canvassing of all valid provisional ballots.

2. Each verified petition under subd. 1. shall state all of the following:

a. That at the election the petitioner was a candidate for the office in question or that the petitioner voted on the referendum question in issue.
b. That the petitioner is informed and believes that a mistake or fraud has been committed in a specified ward or municipality in the counting and return of the votes cast for the office or upon the question or that another specified defect, irregularity, or illegality occurred in the conduct of the election.
c. If the petitioner is a candidate voted for at the election for which the petitioner seeks a recount, that the petitioner is an aggrieved party.

3. The petition under subd. 1. shall specify each ward, or each municipality where no wards exist, in which a recount is desired. If a recount is requested for all wards within a jurisdiction, each ward need not be specified.
4. The petition under subd. 1. may be amended to include information discovered as a result of the investigation of the board of canvassers or the commission chairperson or chairperson’s designee after the filing of the petition if the petitioner moves to amend the petition as soon as possible after the petitioner discovers, or reasonably should have discovered, the information that is the subject of the amendment and if the petitioner was unable to include the information in the original petition.
5. In this paragraph, “aggrieved party” means any of the following:
a. For an election at which 4,000 or fewer votes are cast for the office that the candidate seeks, a candidate who trails the leading candidate, as defined under par. (ag) 5., by no more than 40 votes, as determined under par. (ag) 5.
b. For an election at which more than 4,000 votes are cast for the office that the candidate seeks, a candidate who trails the leading candidate, as defined under par. (ag) 5., by no more than 1 percent of the total votes cast for that office, as determined under par. (ag) 5.

Trump would also have to pay up:

The bottom line appears to be that the slim margin, if accurate, means Trump will be able to legally petition for a recount.

Stepien said in a statement Wednesday afternoon that the Trump campaign and the president will “immediately” request a recount.

Scott Walker, the former Republican Governor of Wisconsin, commented that a 20,000 gap is a “high hurdle” for Trump and the Trump campaign in a potential recount.

You can read more about the seemingly inevitable controversy here.

[Image via CSPAN screengrab]

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Matt Naham is managing editor of Law&Crime. He formerly worked as news editor and weekend editor at Rare.