Elections officials in Wisconsin are expressing frustration over observers aligned with President Donald Trump during the recount process that began this past weekend, citing questionable challenges, obstruction and violation of social distancing rules set in place for the process.
Breaking these rules is “unacceptable,” Milwaukee County Clerk George Christenson said to The Associated Press, adding that it was clear to him that many of the Trump observers there “clearly don’t know what they are doing.”
The recount is taking place in two of Wisconsin’s most populated counties after the Trump campaign made unfounded claims of voter fraud. The campaign paid around $3 million last week to recount ballots in Dane and Milwaukee counties, which were both won by President-elect Joe Biden.
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Trump observers have been seen doubling up at tables set up for the recount, in violation of social distancing rules allowing for only one observer at a time. Some observers who initially claimed to be independent or nonpartisan observers admitted later to the media that they were there to help the president.
One Trump observer, according to the AP, lashed out after being called out for leaning too far over a line used to enforce social distancing.
“I know you don’t want us to see the ballots. You think we’ll find something,” the observer said.
In some cases, law enforcement physically removed Trump observers from the premises, including one participant who shoved someone at the Milwaukee County recount center for moving their jacket from a chair, and another person who refused to wear a mask on the premises.
Some of Trump’s people at the recount facilities were challenging every vote brought before them, which threatens to delay the process of recounting millions of ballots by the December 1 deadline, per state law.
One observer, for example, was challenging every ballot that was folded — something that is unavoidable for every absentee ballot cast in the state, whether by mail or in person, as they need to be placed inside an envelope before being counted.
A lawyer representing Trump in Wisconsin’s recount, Jim Troupis, a former Dane County judge, is also arguing in favor of discounting large numbers of absentee ballots for dubious reasons. He has demanded, for example, that every absentee ballot that was cast in-person be tossed out in both counties — a move that would actually invalidate his and his wife’s own votes.
Troupis acknowledged the dilemma. “I’m sure I’m on that list,” he said while fielding questions about his effort to disqualify votes.
Lawyers working on behalf of President-elect Joe Biden objected to Troupis’s demands, noting that this was not the forum to be making such arguments.
“This is not a litigation prep session, this is a recount,” Biden lawyer Diane Welsh said during a hearing at the Dane County recount site.
The recount in Wisconsin has a very slim chance of changing the outcome. Recounts in past years in the state have only shifted by a few hundred votes, at most, when ballots across the entire state were recounted. Trump is currently behind by more than 20,000 votes.
The president is continuing to challenge the outcome of the election in other states, including in Georgia, where a completed recount last week affirmed Biden’s win in the state by a margin of more than 12,000 votes. Despite that outcome, Trump is requesting a second recount in Georgia, which will require the state’s 5 million ballots to be counted for a third time in this year’s race.