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Gov. Tony Evers certifies Joe Biden victory in Wisconsin as lawsuits stack up

Gov. Tony Evers certifies Joe Biden victory in Wisconsin as lawsuits stack up

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Dane County recount

Dane County's recount of ballots in the 2020 presidential election resulted in a 58-vote gain for President Donald Trump, barely budging President-elect Joe Biden's winning margin.

Gov. Tony Evers certified Wisconsin’s presidential election results Monday, confirming President-elect Joe Biden’s victory and clearing the way for a number of lawsuits against the outcome to make their way through the courts.

The chairperson of the Wisconsin Elections Commission, Ann Jacobs, a Democratic appointee, affirmed the presidential election results from all 72 counties, including the recounts conducted in Dane and Milwaukee counties, in a brief teleconference Monday afternoon. Evers certified them shortly after, clearing one of the last hurdles, pending a lawsuit, for Wisconsin’s 10 electoral votes to go to Biden.

For President Donald Trump’s campaign, which has so far come up short in multiple efforts to overturn the election results in several states, its last resort in Wisconsin is to appeal to the courts, which Trump has said he would do.

The recount in Dane and Milwaukee counties finished Monday, netting Biden an additional 74 votes and barely changing his margin of victory. Overall, Biden won the state with 20,682 more votes than Trump. Biden got 1,630,866 votes, while Trump got 1,610,184 votes.

Commission staff sent a statement to Evers showing the election results, which the governor is required by law to send to the U.S. administrator of general services. The process is viewed as administrative and usually doesn’t receive much attention.

But Republicans cried foul Monday after Jacobs signed off on the official presidential vote count without input from the full six-member commission, which meets Tuesday. They also objected to the certificate being sent to Evers to sign without their input, and before a voting machine audit was completed and any lawsuits have been resolved.

Under state law, the WEC chairperson, who rotates between Republican and Democratic appointees every two years, is given the responsibility of confirming the election results. The commission sends the certificate to the governor, though the law doesn’t specify if “the commission” is the six-member appointed oversight body or the administrative staff. Republican lawmakers designed the current Elections Commission.

WEC administrator Meagan Wolfe said the commission followed the exact same process — sending the governor the results as affirmed by the commission chairperson without full commission input — as in 2016.

If in the unlikely scenario a court were to overturn the election results in a lawsuit, the statement Evers signed can be modified.

Counties wrap up

Dane County concluded its recount Sunday but met again Monday to reconcile a minor error in uploading the data. It ended up reporting a 58-vote gain for Trump, up from the original 45-vote gain reported Sunday.

Milwaukee County finished its recount Friday, giving Biden an additional 132 votes. Trump’s campaign paid $3 million for the recount in the state’s two largest and most Democratic counties.

Monday’s certification starts a five-day clock for Trump to appeal the results in state court.

An appeal by the Trump campaign is widely expected after the campaign made a point to document whole categories of ballots it wanted to be thrown out so they could be included in a court challenge.

On Saturday, Trump tweeted that a lawsuit from his campaign would be forthcoming.

“The Wisconsin recount is not about finding mistakes in the count, it is about finding people who have voted illegally, and that case will be brought after the recount is over, on Monday or Tuesday,” Trump said. “We have found many illegal votes. Stay tuned!”

With this basket in the season opener against Darlington on Tuesday, Jaylynn Benson became the sixth girls basketball player in New Glarus history to reach 1,000 points during her career.

Where those alleged “illegal” votes were, Trump didn’t say. Election clerks in Wisconsin have reported no evidence of widespread voter fraud, although the recount turned up 400 ballots in Milwaukee County that hadn’t been counted on Election Day. Other minor vote drawdowns were conducted, as is typical in recount efforts.

Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul on Monday said the recount affirmed the election’s integrity.

“With the partial recount of the presidential election complete, there remains no question that, as usual, this year’s general election in Wisconsin was conducted professionally and securely,” Kaul said in a statement. “There’s no basis at all for any assertion that there was widespread fraud that would have affected the results.”

On the horizon

In the president’s increasingly fruitless quest to overturn Biden’s victory, his potential lawsuit is expected to call for invalidating thousands of legally cast ballots in Dane and Milwaukee counties based on longshot legal arguments that the votes were cast improperly or otherwise invalid.

In Dane County, for example, Trump wanted canvassers to reject absentee ballots in cases where the voter didn’t submit a written application for one, including 69,000 absentee ballots cast in person; absentee ballots where the witness address on the ballot envelope was filled in by a local election official; and all absentee ballots where voters self-certified as “indefinitely confined,” which exempts them from having to provide a photo ID.

Overall, Trump wants to disqualify as many as 238,000 ballots in the two counties, according to an analysis by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Lawsuits by other conservative groups have already been filed. One filed last Tuesday by the conservative Wisconsin Voters Alliance asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court to toss out the results of the presidential election and replace the will of the voters with electors appointed by the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature.

Another lawsuit filed by a Chippewa County resident called on the Wisconsin Supreme Court to stop certification of the presidential election based on an argument that ballot boxes used to collect absentee ballots are illegal.

Presidential electors for Biden are expected to cast their vote for president on Dec. 14 at the state Capitol.

Dispute over certification

Republican state elections commissioner Robert Spindell took issue with the fact the WEC sent the election certificate to the governor to sign before the full commission meets Tuesday.

“They’re going to be developing with the Republicans a mistrust they may never be able to get over,” Spindell said. He said the WEC should not have sent the certification to the governor given the likelihood of a lawsuit being filed by the Trump campaign.

Spindell and other Republicans have suggested all six elections commissioners, three Democrats and three Republicans, should have a say in whether the results are finalized and sent off to the governor, not just the chairperson.

Dean Knudson, another Republican commissioner, called out Jacobs for determining the vote count before the report on voting machine audits, which are meant to further verify the accuracy of the vote. By doing so, Knudson said Jacobs “ignored our bipartisan agreement in 2018 that audits be reviewed prior to finalizing.”

Under Wisconsin law, “the chairperson of the (Elections Commission) … shall publicly canvass the returns and make his or her certifications and determinations on or before … the first day of December following a general election.”

The law later says that for presidential electors, “the commission shall prepare a certificate showing the determination of the results of the canvass and the names of the persons elected.” The governor then signs that certificate.


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Monday’s certification starts a five-day clock for President Donald Trump to appeal Wisconsin’s results in state court.

Monday's certification starts a five-day clock for President Donald Trump to appeal Wisconsin's results in state court.

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