With a tight margin in Wisconsin, attention turns to a potential recount

MADISON – Wisconsin might get recount deja vu. 

Unofficial tallies showed Democrat Joe Biden winning the state by the thinnest of margins four years after Republican Donald Trump narrowly won it. The lead of some 20,000 votes prompted Trump’s team to say the president would demand a recount.  

That brought flashbacks of 2016’s recount.

Results:Statewide results, county breakdowns and more

More:Why Wisconsin’s election results weren’t final on Tuesday 

Live blog:Updates from around the state

Full coverage:Wisconsin election section

If Trump remains behind by less than 1 percentage point once the official tally is completed, he can force a recount. If the margin is larger than that, there’s no chance for one. 

Before any decision could be made on a recount, the official results need to be finalized over the coming weeks.

The recount in 2016 resulted in few changes to the final tally in Wisconsin. That year, Trump won the state by fewer than 23,000 votes out of about 3 million cast.

Under the recount rules at the time, Green Party candidate Jill Stein was able to make the recount happen, even though she had received only about 31,000 votes, a tiny sliver of the vote total. Stein’s campaign had to pay about $3.5 million for that recount.

In response to the 2016 recount, Republicans who controlled the state at the time changed the law to tighten the recount rules. That put in place the requirement that a losing candidate can demand a recount only when the margin is 1 point or less.

For now, attention will turn to establishing Wisconsin’s official results through a canvass of votes. 

Local election officials spent Tuesday night and Wednesday morning determining their vote totals. They faced a deadline of 4 p.m. Wednesday.

Next, the counties will perform their canvasses. They are required to start that process by 9 a.m. on Nov. 10 at the latest and must be done with it by Nov. 17. They then send their results to the state Elections Commission, which plans to certify the results on Dec. 1. 

If the small margin holds, Trump can demand a recount — either of the whole state or of specific counties — once counties complete their canvasses. He has to make the demand within three days of the last county sending its official results to the state, according to the Elections Commission. 

If the official results show the race being decided by a quarter of a percentage point or less, the state will pay for the recount. If the margin is between a quarter of a percentage point and a point, Trump’s campaign will have to pay for it. 

In that case, the state would give the Trump campaign an estimate that must be paid before the recount can begin.

Contact Patrick Marley at patrick.marley@jrn.com. Follow him on Twitter at @patrickdmarley.