What Impact Could The Wisconsin Recount Have?

Wisconsin will soon begin recounting its votes from November's presidential election, at the request of Green Party candidate Jill Stein and another candidate, Roque ("Rocky") De La Fuente. Although no evidence of voter fraud or widespread hacking has been made public, the Green Party and some election experts have reason to believe that irregularities in Wisconsin and other states led President-elect Donald Trump to claim victory. A recount could make Hillary Clinton win Wisconsin, but what does that mean for the presidency?

According to the original election results, Trump defeated Clinton by a margin of about 20,000 votes in the Badger State. That margin was narrow enough to put Clinton within 1 percentage point of Trump, but it remains to be seen if it's narrow enough to be the result of a simple calculation error or, worse, a small batch of election fraud.

Wisconsin's vote recount will likely begin this week, according to the state's elections commission. A board of canvassers will revisit the polling lists, absentee ballots, and regular ballots to either confirm or overturn the results that were calculated at the beginning of November. From the recount, there appear to be three potential outcomes: Trump's victory could be confirmed, Clinton could be awarded the victory, or the results could be delayed until after the federal government's Dec. 13 deadline.


If the results are overturned and Clinton is awarded a victory in Wisconsin, she'd pick up the state's 10 electoral votes. Currently, those votes belong to Trump. If Wisconsin's electors are given to Clinton, her electoral vote total would reach 242, and Trump's would dip to 280. (Note: Those totals do not take into account Michigan's electoral votes, where the race remains too close to call.)

With that breakdown, Trump would seemingly remain the president-elect, thanks to his more than 270 electoral votes. In other words, Wisconsin's recount probably won't be enough to sway the entire election in Clinton's favor. However, it could still be an important stepping stone.

Stein and the Green Party have announced plans to request recounts in Michigan and Pennsylvania, as well. That's another 26 electoral votes that could be up for grabs. If Trump were to lose his electoral votes from both Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, he would fall below the 270-elector threshold that he needs to claim victory. That's when things could get interesting.

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Alternatively, Wisconsin's recount could actually win Clinton nothing at all. The original results could be confirmed, or Wisconsin's recount could extend beyond the federal government's Dec. 13 deadline. That's the day that states must be able to certify their vote totals in order to make their Electoral College votes count. If Wisconsin can't meet that deadline, Trump could theoretically lose his 10 votes from that state, but Clinton wouldn't net any of her own, either. If that's the case, then Trump would still remain the president-elect. Ultimately, it would take delayed totals in multiple states to cost Trump enough electoral votes that he loses the president-elect status. Still, Clinton wouldn't reach 270 votes, either, and the decision could go the House of Representatives, per the 12th Amendment.

Clearly, there are plenty of opportunities for the presidential election results to still change. If that's going to happen though, it will take more than a recount in Wisconsin — and it would take actual instances of election irregularities, which have not been clearly reported so far. News of recounts in Michigan and Pennsylvania would make things much more interesting — and complicated.