Skip to content Skip to footer

Trump Paid Millions for Wisconsin Recounts That Yielded More Net Votes for Biden

The recount in two Wisconsin counties cost Trump $3 million, and reaffirmed Biden beat him by more than 20,000 votes.

An election worker shows ballots to representatives for President Trump during the presidential recount vote for Dane County, Wisconsin.

Recounts in two of Wisconsin’s most populous counties have reaffirmed President-elect Joe Biden’s win in the state against incumbent President Donald Trump in this year’s presidential election. Yet even as vote totals show a small widening in the lead for Biden, there’s a high likelihood that Trump’s legal team will attempt to discount millions of voters’ preferences through lawsuits set to appear as early as this week.

Milwaukee County wrapped up its recount on Friday, finding a net gain of 132 votes for Biden after discovering around 400 votes total that hadn’t been previously counted. In Dane County, the recount ended on Sunday, with both candidates actually losing votes (91 for Biden, 46 for Trump), resulting in a net gain within the county of 45 votes for Trump.

Neither changes in either county disrupted the vote totals throughout the rest of the state, as Biden won Wisconsin by a margin of more than 20,000 votes. As a result of the recount, Biden’s lead actually grew by a net total of 87 votes overall.

The Trump campaign spent $3 million in order to initiate the recount. State law requires that any party seeking a recount pay for it up front before it can begin, a change that came about after the 2016 presidential recount in the state.

Wisconsin Elections Commission Chairwoman Ann Jacobs will likely certify the results of the statewide vote on Monday afternoon. According to state law, the Trump campaign will have five days in which it can challenge the outcome, a move that many anticipate the president will probably pursue, given his legal challenges elsewhere across the country and recent comments he has made about the state over the weekend.

Trump, for example, said on Saturday, after the Milwaukee County recount had ended, that the recount wasn’t meant to find more votes for him at all.

“The Wisconsin recount is not about finding mistakes in the count, it is about finding people who have voted illegally,” Trump said in a tweet, “and that case will be brought after the recount is over, on Monday or Tuesday.”

“We have found many illegal votes,” Trump added, providing no evidence for his assertion. “Stay tuned!”

In an interview on Sunday on Fox News, the president also reiterated his dishonest claims that fraud had occurred, describing Milwaukee and other major cities in the state “among the most dishonest political places.” He also stated that there was a “well-coordinated attack” on his campaign, again without providing proof of his allegation.

No major issues were reported in any parts of the state, let alone in Dane or Milwaukee Counties, that would back the president’s claims.

Trump and his legal team may face a significant hurdle in its attempt to win a court challenge in the state, however. While the president’s lawyers have been able to “shop” for sympathetic judges elsewhere to hear their dubious challenges, that isn’t allowed under Wisconsin law when it comes to contesting the certification of the election.

Instead, the State Supreme Court Chief Justice Patience Roggensack will decide which judge in the state appellate court system will hear the case. Roggensack will also get to decide which courts will hear subsequent appeals for the case, if Trump loses and decides to appeal further.

That said, there is a small possibility that partisan shenanigans could pave the way for a Trump-friendly legal outcome in Wisconsin, despite the total absence of evidence backing his allegations of fraud. Roggensack is a conservative, and the Supreme Court in the state is itself led by a 4-3 conservative majority. And while the court has not indicated it intends to discount millions of voters in the state based on the president’s flimsy arguments, Wisconsin is possibly the state with the best chance for Trump when it comes to his attempts at doing so.

Countdown is on: We have 8 days to raise $46,000

Truthout has launched a necessary fundraising campaign to support our work. Can you support us right now?

Each day, our team is reporting deeply on complex political issues: revealing wrongdoing in our so-called justice system, tracking global attacks on human rights, unmasking the money behind right-wing movements, and more. Your tax-deductible donation at this time is critical, allowing us to do this core journalistic work.

As we face increasing political scrutiny and censorship for our reporting, Truthout relies heavily on individual donations at this time. Please give today if you can.