Wisconsin judge refuses to halt recount, now 89% complete

MADISON -- A federal judge has refused to halt Wisconsin's presidential recount, meaning the almost-finished counting will continue statewide.

Two political groups that supported President-elect Donald Trump's campaign filed the lawsuit Dec. 1 as the recount began. The effort is now 89 percent completed, with little change to Mr. Trump's margin of victory.

"Everybody acknowledges there is virtually no chance" the recount will change the election result, U.S. District Judge James Peterson said. In a hearing that took only 20 minutes, he said he wasn't persuaded "by anything" the plaintiffs said.

Michael Morley, an attorney for Great America PAC and Stop Hillary PAC, wouldn't say if his clients planned to appeal the decision.

Mr. Trump defeated Democratic rival Hillary Clinton by 22,177 votes in the state. As of Friday afternoon, the recount added 609 votes to Clinton's total and 560 to Mr. Trump's -- changing the margin by just 49 votes.

Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, who received 1 percent of the vote in Wisconsin, requested the recount to determine if election machines were hacked or tampered with. Stein must pay the full cost of the effort, estimated to be $3.9 million.

In refusing to grant the plaintiffs' request, Peterson noted the recount is nearly complete.

He called the lawsuit dead on arrival and said he would decide whether to dismiss the lawsuit outright within the next few days.

"We were pleased to see that the recount, as was discussed in court, is occurring smoothly, that there haven’t been any problems, and that’s a positive development for the voters of Wisconsin," said Morley, the plaintiffs' attorney.

Mike Haas, administrator of the Wisconsin Elections Commission, said he was confident that all counties would finish by Tuesday's federal deadline.

"So, we're happy that there was not an additional complication thrown in at the end here," Haas said. "We're really in the home stretch."

Wisconsin is again the only state where a full recount is underway now that a judge has halted Michigan's efforts.

Michael White, a lead organizer for the Stein campaign, said he was not disappointed that the recount showed very little change in the election results.

"I’ve told our observers again and again and again, it’s not about who won. It’s about the process," White said. "We don't have anything to gain except ensuring election integrity."

Dane County, the largest county in the state to hand-count ballots, is likely to finish around noon Monday, Haas said.

He said that Outagamie County is "not as far ahead" as some other counties, but Haas said he still expected workers there to complete the recount by the 8 p.m. Tuesday deadline that the Elections Commission set for clerks.

The state must certify the recount results by the following day to ensure that Congress recognizes Wisconsin's 10 Electoral College members.

Asked if he saw a need to further challenge the recount results so far, the Stein campaign's White said, "I don't, but I don't have access to all the details yet. I've been scrambling to coordinate 3,000 volunteers on short notice.

Haas said the recount had value, and expected it to prove that there were no widespread problems with the election in Wisconsin.

"It’s been a huge inconvenience for clerks," Haas said of the recount. "It’s been a challenge. But, in the last five years, we’ve seen our state and local election officials step up to every challenge."