Wisconsin readies for possible presidential recount, challenges

Wisconsin is getting ready for a possible presidential recount. Clerks are rushing to meet a Friday deadline to estimate how much it would cost. 

The Trump campaign would have to pay for the promised recount -- and the bill could be much larger than previous recounts because of COVID-19.

The first problem is space. County clerks are looking for places large enough for all of the workers, media, and public to not be crammed amid the coronavirus pandemic. In Waukesha County, the clerk reserved the Waukesha County Expo Center.

"Four years ago, we had the space to do that here. But with COVID and knowing because of spacing requirements, we can’t do it here," Waukesha County Clerk Meg Wartman said of the Waukesha County Administration Center.

Before a recount can be requested, Wisconsin's county clerks are finishing the canvass -- the process of making the unofficial results official. They are double checking tabulator tapes and poll books -- making sure everything adds up. Statewide, the canvass has led to 43 more votes for Joe Biden and 39 extra for Donald Trump -- partly due to fixing mistakes and counting provisional ballots.

"That's what canvas is for; that's when you want to find errors, so you can correct them," said Wisconsin Elections Commission Administrator Meagan Wolfe, the state's top elections official.

One of those errors was in Shawano, where President Trump was accidently shown with 274 extra votes. 

Shawano County Clerk Pam Schmidt told FOX6 it was a human error they caught in the canvassing process. "It's very clear on the tally sheet that they used on election night, somehow when whoever in the city office put in the votes, maybe, I don’t know if they were looking at something else, possibly, picked it up; but yeah, human error."

To date, 75% of counties in Wisconsin have turned into the state their certified results. Today, Waukesha County finished their canvassing. The deadline to finish is Tuesday. Then, the Trump campaign has until 5 p.m. on Wednesday to request a recount and pay the estimated cost, which could total into the millions.

"We trust the election results, and I think if you go back to the 2016 recount of the presidential race, you can see that our results did match," Wartman said. "There were some minor changes. But we had those paper ballots. We did that real test of our system and it worked."

The presidential recount in 2016 cost the Green Party more than $2 million. It led to an extra 131 votes for Donald Trump. The state law for who can ask for a recount changed after that election. The president can ask for the promised recount in 2020 since he is less than 1% behind Joe Biden. Biden is leading in Wisconsin by 20,000 votes.

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If Trump requests a recount, as pledged, that would start the clock on a series of deadlines to begin and complete the recount. Once it starts, clerks would have 13 calendar days to finish it. That would run through Thanksgiving, and the recount is only allowed a one-day break. Dec. 8 is the deadline for the elections commission to certify the election results if there is a recount.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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