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'No dark corners': With narrow presidential margin in Wisconsin, focus shifts to recount process

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Voting Vermont 04

Peter Antonie and his wife, Kris, process absentee ballots at the Vermont Town Hall in Vermont Wisconsin on Tuesday.

Wisconsin's top election official conveyed confidence in the integrity of the voting process despite Donald Trump's presidential campaign claim of "voting irregularities" occurring across the state and saying it would request a recount in this battleground state.

“They are finding Biden votes all over the place — in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan. So bad for our Country!” Trump tweeted.

Wisconsin Elections Commission Administrator Meagan Wolfe did not directly respond to the president’s remarks but said the election process had no surprises and followed state laws, which do not permit the counting of absentee ballots before election day and allows municipalities to count absentee ballots at a central location.

“There are no dark corners or locked doors in elections,” Wolfe said during a Wednesday news briefing. “Anybody was free to watch those processes as they unfolded yesterday.”

Unofficial election results reported by Wisconsin counties show Biden ahead by about 20,500 votes of the roughly 3.2 ballots cast. All ballots have been counted with the exception of one town, Windsor in Richland County, that has about 300 registered voters. 

Under a law passed in 2017, a recount can be requested if the margin between the first- and second-place candidates is within 1%. 

Wisconsin has had practice in recounts. It was the only state to complete a presidential recount in 2016, Wolfe said. 

Green Party candidate Jill Stein requested the recount and the results didn't change much. Trump won the state by fewer than 23,000 votes.

Stein's campaign had to pay about $3.5 million to cover the cost of the recount. If official results show the race being decided by a quarter of a percentage point or less, the state picks up the tab.

"(The 2016 recount) showed we had a really good process," Wolfe said. "We have a really good system and local election officials are doing a phenomenal job. I believe that that would be the case if we had a recount again in our state that you would find we have a really solid system here and that there's an incredible paper trail for every single request, registration and ballot that's been cast."

The recount process takes place at the county level, Wolfe said. Clerks record any abnormalities in their inspector statements. 

For now, attention turns toward certifying election results. Each of Wisconsin's 1,850 municipalities must complete their counts by 4 p.m. Wednesday. Then, counties begin canvassing and results are certified by the state Elections Commission by Dec. 1.


State Journal reporter Chris Hubbuch contributed to this report.


Photos: Election 2020 voting

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