What Happens If Hillary Clinton Calls For A Recount? 2000 Was a Bureaucratic Nightmare, And This Could Be, Too

Even though many on the left are slowly coming to terms with the reality of a Donald Trump administration, a group of academics is urging Hillary Clinton’s campaign to challenge the returns in the crucial states of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan and call for a recount in those states. So far, the Clinton campaign has not made any public statements regarding a potential recount, but it begs the question: what will happen if Hillary Clinton calls for a recount?

The answer will vary depending on which states’ ballots are getting recounted. In Wisconsin and Michigan, most voters use optical scan ballots, so a ballot recount could involve reviewing paper ballots, as well as double-checking rejected ballots, examining provisional ballots, and cross-checking voter roll counts with total votes cast. Election officials would also likely examine optical scan machines to ensure that the votes tabulated electronically match what the voters marked on their ballots.

This isn’t the case in Pennsylvania, however. Check out this excellent post on BillyPenn.com blog outlines the “nightmare scenario” that a presidential ballot recount would be in the Keystone state. As author Anna Orso explains, "The Keystone State’s voting machines are outdated by decades and don’t create any sort of paper trail that can be used in cases of recounts." Orso added that, "It’s a long, cumbersome process that could cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars." Yikes.

Some recounts happen automatically: in Pennsylvania, recounts occur if the margin of victory is less than .5 percent, but Trump’s victory of just under 70,000 votes represents a 1.2 percent lead over Clinton. In Michigan, however, recounts are only mandatory if less than 2,000 votes separate the winner and loser (currently, Trump leads Clinton by 11,602 votes in Michigan, which has still not finalized its results).

In Wisconsin, recounts must be requested by the candidate, but if the margin of victory is greater than .5 percent, the requesting candidate must pay for the cost of the recount (unless a recount leads to reversed results).

The long and short of it is, if the Clinton campaign does decide to initiate a recount, you can expect to see lots of election officials examining a lot of ballots… if you’re not haunted by images of the 2000 recount in Florida, check out this video and you’ll get an idea of the kind of news we can expect to see for weeks and weeks.

Still, short of some stronger evidence from the activists pushing Clinton towards a challenge, it seems unlikely that such a recount will happen. The White House reportedly is against such a move. New York's Daily Intelligencer reported that the "White House, focused on a smooth transfer of power, does not want Clinton to challenge the election result." Between that and the fact that statistics wonks like Nate Silver have said that the evidence for the kind of voting error that would swing the election to Clinton is slim, the prospect of Clinton calling for a recount is slim to none.