Why Wisconsin is moving forward with vote recount

Wisconsin election officials have announced that they will move forward with a recount of the state's presidential vote.

Jim Young/Reuters/File
US Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at a campaign event in Milwaukee, Wis., March 28.

Three weeks after the presidential election, Wisconsin will move forward with a vote recount after some have questioned the integrity of election proceedings in the state.

But the recount won’t be done by hand, as that process requires a court order. Jill Stein, who has led the push for recounts in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, appeared in court Monday, hoping to kickstart a statewide hand recount.

Claims of a "rigged" election originated with President-elect Donald Trump during the campaign, when he stated that he could only lose to Hillary Clinton if voter fraud occurred. While many hailed those claims as dangerous to citizens' trust in open and honest US elections, those on the other side of the aisle are now calling for recounts in the three states, spurring critiques similar to those levied against Trump. 

Dr. Stein has said that old, and possibly faulty, election equipment could have tainted the results in states where Mr. Trump won by a thin margin.

"If nothing else, this is going to give us a very good audit, it's going to re-assure Wisconsin voters that we have a fair system, that we're not counting illegal votes," the state’s Elections Commission chairman Mark Thomsen said, according to CNN.

While he’s supporting the recount, he indicated that he didn’t believe a recount would reveal different results.

"To say we didn't count them correctly the first time ... that somehow illegal votes were counted ... is really inappropriate," Mr. Thomsen said. "I don't think we'll find in this that our fellow citizens counted these votes (in)accurately.... We're not counting dead people's votes."

The recount would start Thursday, given that Stein and company paid the required $3.5 million to facilitate it by Tuesday. Officials would have less than two weeks to complete the statewide recount and would have to file the results by Dec. 12.

The bulk of Wisconsin’s machines count votes using optical readers, meaning voters fill out a paper ballot and send it into a machine that reads the vote. If the court granted Stein’s push for a hand recount, clerks would have to individually tally the ballots. But a machine recount only requires them to resend the completed ballots through the machines and double check the signed names on poll lists.

While some have raised concerns that election results could have been hacked by a third party, Wisconsin officials said that none of the state’s machines have internet connections, meaning their readings could not be accessed or interfered with remotely.

For the results of the election to change, all three states would have to shift to favor Mrs. Clinton, which experts say would be a highly unlikely and unprecedented outcome.

On Sunday, Trump aired his own concerns with the process, tweeting that he would have won the popular vote in addition to the electoral college vote if "millions" hadn’t voted illegally. He was criticized for making the bold statement without proper evidence to back his claims.

That kind of rhetoric, along with laws that serve suppress the vote along minority lines, can lead to disenfranchisement of voters, experts say.

"It is vital that we protect voters from the real threats to the integrity of elections," Myrna Pérez, a law professor at the New York University School of Law, wrote in a Brennan Center report from earlier this year. "Fortunately, it is possible to protect election integrity without disenfranchising eligible voters."

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