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Elections Commission preps for recount of Wisconsin presidential election
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Elections Commission preps for recount of Wisconsin presidential election

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State officials are readying for an unprecedented potential recount of Wisconsin’s presidential election after Green Party candidate Jill Stein, citing concerns with the legitimacy of the results, told the commission her campaign will request one.

In a possible final twist to an election filled with surprises, Stein’s campaign said Wednesday it intends to request recounts in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, the three states that tipped the electoral college to Republican Donald Trump.

The Stein campaign launched online drives to raise the millions required to pay for the recounts — and to recruit volunteers in Wisconsin to participate in a recount.

By 5 p.m. Wednesday, Stein’s campaign manager, Dave Cobb, said the campaign had raised, in just a few hours, more than $432,000 toward what it estimates is the $1.1 million cost of a recount in Wisconsin. Hundreds of thousands came in later in the evening.

Elections Commission director Michael Haas said Wednesday that the commission is preparing for a recount. But Haas said the commission has not seen credible evidence of any attempt to manipulate Wisconsin’s election results.

“We don’t have any reason to suspect that any voting equipment has been tampered with,” Haas said.

Trump narrowly won Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania after trailing Democrat Hillary Clinton in pre-election polls in those states. Unofficial results showed Trump winning Wisconsin by a little more than 27,000 votes.

Stein’s announcement came after reports surfaced that academics and activists were trying to persuade Clinton’s campaign to seek recounts, citing findings that raise questions of whether election results in the three states were subject to a cyberattack.

New York Magazine reported late Tuesday that in Wisconsin Clinton received 7 percent fewer votes in counties that relied on electronic-voting machines compared with counties that used paper ballots counted by optical scanners.

J. Alex Halderman, director of the University of Michigan Center for Computer Security and Society, wrote in a Wednesday blog post that he was part of a group that approached the Clinton campaign.

Halderman wrote that Wisconsin’s election results probably were not tampered with. But he noted the 2016 campaign has seen unprecedented cyberattacks aimed at influencing it. The Democratic National Committee and several Clinton staffers had their emails breached and later released, in efforts that U.S. security officials later attributed to Russian hackers.

“The only way to know whether a cyberattack changed the result is to closely examine the available physical evidence” by recounting paper ballots, Halderman wrote.

Prominent political statisticians at the website FiveThirtyEight and The New York Times responded to the New York Magazine report by saying demographic differences, not cyberattacks, are the likely explanation for discrepancies between results in counties with electronic machines compared to those with paper ballots.

In Wisconsin, the recount would involve examining paper ballots as well as paper audit trails of the roughly 5 percent of votes cast on electronic touch-screen machines.

Wisconsin’s presidential election was close, but not close enough to trigger a requirement that the state pay for a recount — meaning whichever presidential campaign requests a recount would have to foot the bill.

Friday is the deadline in Wisconsin for Stein or any other candidate to formally petition for a recount. Deadlines also are fast approaching in the other two states.

The Clinton campaign on Wednesday did not respond to a request for comment on whether it would petition for a recount as well.

It remains unclear how much the recount in Wisconsin would cost or when the fee would be due, Haas said. The confusion stems from contradicting state statutes and from the fact that Wisconsin has never conducted a presidential recount, he said.

Haas said the commission is beginning to consult with county clerks to develop an estimate for the cost of a recount.

The last statewide recount in Wisconsin was of the state Supreme Court race in 2011. It cost more than $520,000 and involved 1.5 million votes, or roughly half the votes cast in the presidential election.

Cobb said the $1.1 million estimate was based on that figure.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Capital W: Plug in to Wisconsin politics

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