3–3 votes on Wisconsin Elections Commission mean staff changes to the Recount Manual do not pass
— Matt Batzel (@MattBatzel) November 19, 2020
MADISON, Wis. — The Wisconsin Elections Commission has agreed to issue an order to recount ballots in two heavily liberal counties at President Donald Trump’s request, but only after hours of contentious debate that may foreshadow the partisan battle ahead.
Trump paid the $3 million required for the recount and issuing the order was expected to be a pro forma move, but it took six hours for the commission — split 3–3 along party lines — to agree on the order late Wednesday.
“It’s just remarkable the six of us in a civilized fashion can’t agree to this stuff,” Democratic commissioner Mark Thomsen said hours into the debate.
The recounts in Milwaukee and Dane counties, where Joe Biden outpolled Trump by a more than 2‑to‑1 margin, will begin Friday and must be done by Dec. 1. Biden won statewide by 20,608 votes. Trump’s campaign has cited “irregularities” in the counties, although no evidence of illegal activity has been presented.
The commission argued over changes to its manual that provides guidance to local elections officials over how to conduct recounts. Ultimately, they decided not to reference the manual in the order, but they did update some parts to reflect accommodations for the coronavirus pandemic.
The commissioners deadlocked on making changes to the manual that Democrats and elections commission staff said would bring the guidance into line with current state law. Republicans balked, saying the guidelines should not be changed after Trump filed for the recount.
Their inability to agree leaves in place guidance that says absentee ballot applications must be approved as part of the recount, even though commission staff said that’s not required under the law.