WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign said on Wednesday (Nov 18) it was seeking a partial recount of Wisconsin’s presidential election results, as part of its long-shot attempt to reverse President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.
While staying out of the public eye, the Republican Trump has persisted in venting his anger on Twitter, where he made claims of election fraud, some of which were unsupported by evidence and others demonstrably untrue.
Election officials in Wisconsin, as well as in Georgia, said recounts in those states were very unlikely to reverse Trump’s losses.
Trump’s unfounded claims about the election having been rigged are failing in courts, but opinion polls show they have a political benefit, with as many as half of Republicans believing them, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll.
His campaign on Wednesday transferred US$3 million to Wisconsin to cover the costs of recounting votes in Milwaukee and Dane counties, two heavily Democratic areas, less than the US$7.9 million it would have cost for a full statewide recount.
Biden, a Democrat, won Wisconsin by more than 20,000 votes to lead Trump 49.5 per cent to 48.8 per cent.
Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell said a recount would start on Friday and finish within days. Only a few hundred votes changed in the county’s recount after the 2016 presidential election, he said.
“My guess would be that by focusing on Dane and Milwaukee the end result will be that Biden will have a slight increase in votes, but nothing terribly significant – certainly nothing anywhere near what would be required for changing the outcomes,” McDonell said.
Trump’s refusal to concede the Nov 3 election is blocking the smooth transition to a new administration and complicating Biden’s response to the coronavirus pandemic when he takes office on Jan 20.
In the state-by-state Electoral College that determines the overall election winner, Biden captured 306 votes to the Republican Trump’s 232. He won the popular vote by more than 5.8 million.
To remain in office, Trump would need to overturn results in at least three states to reach the threshold of 270 electoral votes. That would be unprecedented.
The president is also clinging to hope that a manual recount ordered by the state of Georgia can erase Biden’s 14,000-vote lead there and is also challenging results in the swing state of Michigan.
Gabriel Sterling, Georgia’s voting system implementation manager, said in a videoconference with journalists that as of Wednesday morning, election officials conducting the recount had reviewed 4,968,000 ballots – nearly all of those cast in the state – and found Biden’s lead over Trump in the state had fallen to 12,781 ballots. Before the recount, Biden led by 14,156 votes, Sterling said.
Sterling said investigators would look into any claims of fraud and that in every election a small number of ballots are cast illegally. But he said there was no evidence that fraud could have changed the outcome in Georgia.
Trump on Wednesday falsely claimed that the number of votes counted in heavily Democratic Detroit, the largest city in Michigan, had surpassed the number of residents.
“In Detroit, there are FAR MORE VOTES THAN PEOPLE. Nothing can be done to cure that giant scam. I win Michigan!” he tweeted.
City records show that 250,138 votes were cast there in the presidential election. That is a little more than a third of the city’s population, which according to the US Census Bureau is 670,031.
States face a Dec 8 deadline to certify election results in time for the official Electoral College vote on Dec 14.
Congress is scheduled to count the Electoral College votes on Jan 6, which is normally a formality. But Trump supporters in the Senate and House of Representatives could object to the results in a final, long-shot attempt to deprive Biden of 270 electoral votes and turn the final decision over to the House.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Wednesday showed about half of Republicans believe Trump “rightfully won” but the election was stolen from him.
Seventy-three per cent of all voters polled agreed Biden won while 5 per cent thought Trump won. But when asked specifically whether Biden had “rightfully won”, 52 per cent of Republicans said Trump rightfully won, while only 29 per cent said that Biden had rightfully won.
Election officials from both parties, around the United States, have said there was no evidence of vote tampering, and a federal review drew the same conclusion.
Trump on Tuesday fired the top US cybersecurity official, Chris Krebs, who had irked Trump by refusing to support allegations of election fraud.
At a federal court hearing in Pennsylvania on Tuesday, US District Judge Matthew Brann appeared sceptical of Trump’s request to block officials from certifying Biden’s win in that state by more than 80,000 votes.
Biden has said Trump’s defiance could jeopardise efforts to contain surging COVID-19 cases and inhibit vaccine distribution planning in a country where more than 248,000 people have died from the pandemic.
Biden was due to meet healthcare workers on the front lines of the crisis in a virtual roundtable from his home state of Delaware on Wednesday.
As he battles to save his presidency, Trump will stay in Washington over next week’s Thanksgiving holiday, rather than travel to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, a spokeswoman for first lady Melania Trump said.