Douglas County will be ready to start counting ballots at 8:30 a.m. Friday, Nov. 20, if President Donald Trump decides to seek a recount in Wisconsin.
President-elect Joe Biden's lead widened over Trump to about 20,600, according to canvass statements for the Nov. 3 election from all 72 counties in Wisconsin.
Trump said he would seek a recount, but the Wisconsin Elections Commission has not yet received word one way or the other. The recount from the 2016 presidential election netted 131 additional votes for Trump in Wisconsin over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
“We still have not received any indication that there will or will not be a recount,” said Meagan Wolfe, Wisconsin’s chief election official. “But we want Wisconsin’s voters to know we are ready.”
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With the final canvass of the vote completed Tuesday, Trump has until 5 p.m. Wednesday to petition for and pay for a recount of Wisconsin’s votes. If that happens, the Wisconsin Elections Commission chair would issue the recount order on Thursday, Nov. 19.
Douglas County Clerk Sue Sandvick posted notice of the recount Tuesday to get a head start on the process, which must be complete by Dec. 1.
“The goal is to start as soon as possible,” Sandvick said.
The large volume of absentee ballots will require more time and work to review and reconcile, and Sandvick said she's concerned the pandemic could play a role in the process.
The tally was separated by 0.6% of the vote. Wisconsin law allows ballots to be recounted if the difference is less than 1%; however, Trump would have to pay the estimated cost of the recount in advance because the separation exceeds 0.25% of the vote.
“Our county clerks have carefully estimated their costs for recounting 3.2 million ballots, which is approximately $7.9 million,” Wolfe said. “These estimates are significantly higher than the actual costs of the 2016 recount, but they take into account factors not present four years ago, including the need for larger spaces to permit public observation and social distancing, security for those spaces, the higher number of absentee ballots, a compressed timeframe over a holiday, and renting high-speed ballot scanning equipment.”
Douglas County estimates its costs at almost $91,552. The estimate is about $30,000 more than it was in 2016 for several reasons, Sandvick said. Tabulators receive higher salaries than they did in 2016, which will increase more for work on Saturday and Sunday, plus there are costs associated with the pandemic.
“I also don’t know what obstacles we could face with COVID and want to ensure that we have estimated enough to cover any surprises,” Sandvick said.
This story was updated at 8:42 a.m. Nov. 18 to reflect the new time and date for the meeting of the board of canvassers in Douglas County. The story originally posted at 1:22 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 17.