MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Joe Biden’s victory in battleground Wisconsin was confirmed Monday following a partial recount that only added to his 20,600-vote margin over President Donald Trump, who has promised to file a lawsuit seeking to undo the results.
Confirmation of the results by the Democratic chairwoman of the Wisconsin Elections Commission starts a five-day window for Trump to file a lawsuit. Trump on Saturday promised to file a lawsuit either on Monday or Tuesday, an attempt to overturn the results of the election by disqualifying as many as 238,000 ballots. Trump’s attorneys have alleged without evidence that there was widespread fraud and illegal activity.
Biden’s campaign has said the recount showed that Biden won Wisconsin decisively and there was no fraud. Even if Trump were successful in Wisconsin, the state’s 10 Electoral College votes would not be enough to undo Biden’s overall victory.
“There’s no basis at all for any assertion that there was widespread fraud that would have affected the results,” Wisconsin’s Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul said in a statement Monday. He noted that Trump’s recount targeted only the state’s two most populous counties where the majority of Black people live.
“I have every confidence that this disgraceful Jim Crow strategy for mass disenfranchisement of voters will fail,” Kaul said. “An election isn’t a game of gotcha.”
State law gives the power to confirm the results to the chair of the bipartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission. The position rotates between Republicans and Democrats and is currently held by Ann Jacobs, a Democrat. She signed the canvass statement showing Biden as the winner over objections from Republicans who wanted to wait until after legal challenges were exhausted.
In a possible nod to the threatened litigation, the commission called Jacobs’ action a “determination,” rather than certification, even though earlier this year and in prior elections it has called such action certification.
Republican elections commissioner Bob Spindell said final certification would not take place until after Trump’s lawsuit plays out.
Trump’s legal challenges have failed in other battleground states, including Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada and Pennsylvania. Two lawsuits filed by others seeking to have ballots disqualified in Wisconsin were filed last week with the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which has not taken action.
Trump paid $3 million for recounts in Dane and Milwaukee counties, the two largest Democratic counties in Wisconsin, increasing Biden’s lead by 74 votes. Biden won statewide by nearly 20,700 votes, or about 0.6 percentage point.
Trump, during the recount, sought to have ballots discarded where election clerks filled in missing address information on the certification envelope where the ballot is inserted. The state elections commission told clerks before the election that they can fill in missing information on the absentee ballot envelopes, a practice that has been in place for at least the past 11 elections and no court has ever ruled that it was illegal.
Trump also challenged any absentee ballot where a voter declared themselves to be “indefinitely confined” under the law, a designation that increased from about 57,000 in 2016 to nearly 216,000 this year due to the pandemic. Such a declaration exempts voters from having to show photo identification to cast a ballot, which Trump attorney Christ Troupis called “an open invitation for fraud and abuse.” The conservative-controlled Wisconsin Supreme Court this past spring ruled that it is up to individual voters to determine whether they are indefinitely confined, in line with guidance from the elections commission.
Trump also sought to discard any absentee ballot where there was not a written application on file and all absentee ballots cast in-person during the two weeks before Election Day.
People who vote in-person early fill out a certification envelope that they place their ballot in and that envelope serves as the written record. But the vast majority of absentee requests these days are made online, with a voter’s name entered into an electronic log with no paper record.
Disqualifying all of the ballots in Milwaukee and Dane counties that Trump identified during the recount would result in more than 238,000 votes not counting, according to an analysis by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
The conservative Wisconsin Voters Alliance sued last week seeking to block certification of the results and give the Republican-controlled Legislature the power to appoint presidential electors to cast the state’s Electoral College votes. Another lawsuit filed over the weekend by Wisconsin resident Dean Mueller argues that ballots placed in drop boxes are illegal.