Election Commission ‘Not Aware of Any Irregularities’ as Trump Campaign Calls for Wisconsin Recount

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FRONTLINE's documentary "Whose Vote Counts" examined voting rights and voter suppression through the lens of Wisconsin's April 2020 primary. The state remains under the national microscope, with Trump’s call for a Wisconsin recount in the general election.

FRONTLINE's documentary "Whose Vote Counts" examined voting rights and voter suppression through the lens of Wisconsin's April 2020 primary. The state remains under the national microscope, with Trump’s call for a Wisconsin recount in the general election.

November 4, 2020

By Wednesday afternoon, only one Wisconsin town — of less than 300 voters — had yet to report its election results for the battleground state, the Wisconsin Elections Commission announced.

With former Vice President Joe Biden leading the Wisconsin race by roughly 20,500 reported votes, CNN and The Associated Press projected that Biden had won the state and its 10 electoral votes a coveted prize in the still-undecided presidential race

President Donald Trump won Wisconsin in 2016 with a similarly narrow margin. His campaign on Wednesday said it would demand a recount, alleging unspecified reports of irregularities.

“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,” Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien said in a statement Wednesday. “There have been reports of irregularities in several Wisconsin counties which raise serious doubts about the validity of the results. The President is well within the threshold to request a recount and we will immediately do so.”

In response to the campaign’s statement, the Wisconsin Elections Commission told FRONTLINE it was not aware of any irregularities. “A losing candidate is not required to allege irregularities when requesting a recount, and we are not aware of any irregularities in the election,” said commission spokesperson Reid Magney.

In a recorded statement about the presidential race on Wednesday, Biden said he had won Wisconsin.

Vote recounts in the 2020 election could play out in a number of ways. In Wisconsin, requests to recount ballots must be filed within three days of when the state announces certified results.

Former Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, a Republican, said on Twitter that, considering the narrow margin in the state, requesting a recount was a legitimate legal option — but that a lead of “20,000 [votes] is a high hurdle.” Following a 2016 recount in Wisconsin, Trump netted an additional 131 votes.

The state election commission emphasized online it would not get official numbers from county clerks until next week. “Remember, the unofficial numbers being reported for Wisconsin come from the news media,” the commission tweeted. “The state doesn’t have its own election night system for unofficial results.”

News agencies gather information from counties and other sources as their basis for calling races, but the Wisconsin Elections Commission said results are not official until they have been certified.

Last week Wisconsin was subject to a Supreme Court decision declining to extend the state’s absentee ballot deadline. The ruling raised concerns about voter disenfranchisement. 

For more on Wisconsin and the 2020 election, watch Whose Vote Counts, a documentary from FRONTLINE, Columbia Journalism Investigations, Columbia Journalism School and USA TODAY NETWORK reporters. The documentary examined voting rights and voter suppression through the lens of Wisconsin’s April primary, and what the political and legal fights over absentee ballots portended for the national general election. Whose Vote Counts is available to stream in FRONTLINE’s online library, on YouTube, in the PBS Video App and below.


Zoe Todd

Zoe Todd, Abrams Journalism Fellow, FRONTLINE/Columbia Journalism School Fellowships

Twitter:

@ZoeHTodd

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