Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker on Friday said he would consider passing a law that would prevent a fourth-place candidate like Jill Stein from requesting a presidential recount.
"It’s certainly something to look at," Walker told reporters Friday morning after lighting the state Capitol Christmas tree. "I think a lot of people, no matter where they sit on the political spectrum, kind of scratch their head as to why someone would ask for a recount when they came in fourth. To me, it seems like a recount is most valuable if you think it was close and you want to challenge it to make sure that all the votes that were legitimate and legal were cast."
The governor's comments came after the chairman of the state Senate Committee on Elections and Local Government said earlier this week that he would "reexamine Wisconsin law to ensure that a candidate who received 1 percent of the vote cannot hold the results of an election hostage and jeopardize the state’s 10 electoral votes."
Sen. Devin LeMahieu, R-Oostburg, said Republican president-elect Donald Trump was rightly criticized when he suggested on the campaign trail that the election was rigged, and suggested the recount effort deserves similar opprobrium.
“Wisconsin has perhaps the most decentralized elections system in the nation," LeMahieu said in a statement. "Municipal clerks administer elections in each of the state’s 1,852 cities, towns and villages. There is no Wisconsin Elections Mainframe to hack, and I have not yet heard of any reports of Russian spies running around polling places in Monroe County."
Reached on Friday, LeMahieu said he doesn't have a bill drafted yet, but he is speaking with other lawmakers and with Legislative Council staff to make sure the right to a recount would be preserved while putting in place some restrictions.
"I've heard from quite a few representatives and senators who are interested in getting something done to prevent a candidate who has no way of actually winning in a recount of holding up the electoral process," he said, adding that he thinks most lawmakers would agree a recount conducted on behalf of someone who received such a small percentage of the vote is not an effective use of local clerks' time.
Trump defeated Democratic former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Wisconsin by about 22,000 votes. Stein received about 31,000 votes.
Walker on Friday said people should call the recount what it is: "a fundraising scheme for the Green Party."
Not only is the party raising money to fund recounts in Wisconsin and other states, Walker said, it is building an email list of donors it can tap in the future.
"It’s perfectly legal, though. It’s their right to do that," Walker said. "They’re paying for it, the taxpayers aren’t being asked to pay for it. The only real concern I have is that for a lot of these clerks, local clerks, they’re already busy. Usually they like to get through the elections and then get ready for property tax bills being sent out and collected, so that’s a bit of a challenge. But I have every confidence they’ll get all this done in a timely basis."
The recount began on Thursday, after Stein's campaign paid the $3.5 million assessed by county clerks and the state Elections Commission to cover costs. The process must be completed by Dec. 13 in order to meet a federal deadline for certification of electoral votes.
Stein, with support from Clinton, pushed for the entire state to conduct the recount by hand, but instead, it is up to each of the state's 72 counties to decide whether to count manually or by machine. Most counties have chosen to count by hand.
In her recount petition, Stein alleged some electronic voting machines in Wisconsin are "susceptible to compromise." She suggested there were "irregularities" in the state's vote totals that "indicate potential tampering with electronic voting systems."
Walker said he thinks the results of the recount will be similar to the state's initial election results.
"In the end, going through this recount might actually reaffirm people’s confidence in the system," Walker said.
Elections Commission chairman Mark Thomsen, a Democrat, made a similar argument earlier this week.
"It’s going to reassure Wisconsin voters that we have a fair system, that we’re not counting illegal votes, we’re not counting dead people’s votes and it’s really, really important to know that in Wisconsin, elections are fair and accurate and conducted by hardworking people," Thomsen said Monday.
Asked whether he thinks the recount results could serve as a rebuttal to Trump's claim that millions of votes were cast illegally for Clinton, Walker said they are "two separate issues."
"I haven’t looked at the particulars as to whether that’s possible or not," Walker said when asked whether he believes Trump's claim is plausible.
The Republican Party of Wisconsin put up a billboard in Milwaukee on Thursday in opposition to the recount. Featuring pictures of Stein and Clinton, it reads, "Don't let liberals steal the election!"
Asked whether he believes the recount is an effort to steal the election, Walker said it's important for the state GOP to watch to make sure no legitimate ballots are challenged.
"I would assume the same would hold true if the tables were turned," Walker said. "I think you could switch the parties. Anytime there’s a recount, you want to make sure that the party that’s behind the candidate that won wants to make sure they aren’t kicking out votes that were legitimately cast."