Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel will decide Monday if he will seek a recount in the race against Democratic candidate Josh Kaul, a spokesman said Friday.
The development comes after the state Elections Commission on Friday afternoon released preliminary statewide vote counts showing Kaul ahead of Schimel by a margin of 17,190 votes, or 0.65 percent of the total votes cast.
State law allows a candidate to request a recount if the margin is no more than 1 percentage point. Because the margin is more than a quarter of a percentage point, state law also would require Schimel’s campaign to pay for the recount if he seeks one.
The 2016 presidential election recount in Wisconsin sought by third party candidate Jill Stein cost her campaign just over $2 million, according to the Elections Commission.
As of Oct. 22, Schimel had just $106,485 in his campaign account, meaning he’d likely be significantly short of funds unless he could raise additional resources.
County canvasses of election results were completed Friday, meaning Schimel has until Wednesday to request the recount.
Schimel has not yet conceded the race, despite Kaul declaring victory last week. The news of a potential recount comes after fellow Republican Gov. Scott Walker lost his race to Gov.-elect Tony Evers by a 1.2 percentage point margin, according to unofficial counts, outside of the 1 percentage point threshold under which a candidate may request a recount.
Moving primary could be costly
Meanwhile, as outgoing Gov. Scott Walker and Republican legislators consider moving the date of the 2020 presidential primary, the Elections Commission released figures suggesting the potential cost of holding a third statewide election in early 2020 could be more than $6 million.
That’s if legislators move to schedule the presidential preference primary in March while keeping in place the April spring election for state Supreme Court and its corresponding primary in February.
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A compilation of data from Wisconsin counties shows the 2017 spring election, which didn’t feature a presidential preference vote, cost around $6.4 million. In comparison, the 2016 spring election, which did include a presidential primary, cost about $6.8 million.
If legislators choose to schedule two spring elections in 2020 — an April election for Supreme Court and March presidential primary — the cost could rise to $12.8 million total, or $6.4 million each.
Those figures are only a very rough estimate. Elections Commission spokesman Reid Magney cautions against using the numbers as an accurate depiction of election costs. That’s because counties compile their costs differently and can account for other local elections.
Some counties did not report their data. The Elections Commission has not audited the data, and does not tally a statewide figure because Wisconsin’s elections are decentralized, with counties in charge of conducting elections.
Walker, during his first post-election comments to the public Thursday, acknowledged he’s considering moving the election date, noting he finds it odd a nonpartisan primary would be held the same date as a partisan election, as the state Supreme Court and presidential primary elections would be.
Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell on social media Friday said election software can “easily” process ballots from partisan and nonpartisan elections on the same day, adding that the process reduces costs.
McDonnell further slammed the Republican proposal, noting the difficulty of conducting elections, which often require hiring additional staff and coding election equipment.
“We barely have enough time to do this between February and April as it is,” McDonnell wrote.
Walker said he’d have to look at the potential cost of moving the date, but declined to weigh in on whether it’s related to the 2020 state Supreme Court election, when conservative Justice Daniel Kelly will face re-election.
Democratic voter turnout is expected to be higher during the April election for state Supreme Court and presidential preference since Democrats are expected to have a contested primary.