VERIFY: The Trump campaign is signaling a recount in Wisconsin. Here’s what that means and what to expect

The Trump campaign is calling for a recount in Wisconsin. Here’s a look at Wisconsin’s recount laws and how it could impact the election.

WASHINGTON — The hype of Election Day ended with a cliffhanger with races too close to call in several key states. 

By morning, Nevada, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Georgia and Alaska had not yet been called, leaving a combined 76 electoral votes still on the table. 

Just before 1:00 p.m. EST, President Trump’s campaign manager issued a statement[1] that they would request a recount in Wisconsin.

“Despite ridiculous public polling used as a voter suppression tactic, Wisconsin has been a razor-thin race as we always knew that it would be,” Bill Stepien, Trump’s 2020 campaign manager, said.

“There have been reports of irregularities in several Wisconsin counties which raise serious doubts about the validity of the results,” he continued. “The President is well within the threshold to request a recount and we will immediately do so.”

At 1:16 p.m.[2] the Associated Press projected Joe Biden won Wisconsin. 

WUSA9 relies[3] on the data compiled and projections called by the Associated Press and CBS News for the presidential race, U.S. Senate races and U.S. Congressional races.  

Wisconsin does not post unofficial results on their election’s website. They post county counts from across the state.

Meagan Wolfe is an Elections Commission Administrator for the Wisconsin Elections Commission. 

“What the law says, that on election night, that each municipality submits their unofficial results—’unofficial’ being the keyword—to their county, and the county then posts the unofficial results by reporting unit on their website,” she said in a recent Zoom call[4].  

“There is no certified election night aggregate of results,” Wolfe continued. “That is according to state law, that is not a process that we made up or adopted. That is according to state law and we followed state law.” 

What does a recount look like?

The Verify team is looking into what a recount in Wisconsin looks like, and answering your questions.

Our source is the recount manual[5] assembled by the Wisconsin Elections Commission[6] in August 2018 and statements [7]from the agency. 

Does Wisconsin do automatic recounts?

Several states have what’s called an ‘automatic recount,’ which means a recount is automatically triggered if the results fall within a certain threshold. 

For instance, one way an automatic recount can be triggered in Washington, D.C.[8], is if a candidate wins by a margin of less than one percent of the total votes cast for that office.

However, Wisconsin doesn’t have automatic recounts.

“Wisconsin does not have automatic recounts, even if the unofficial results are extremely close,” the Wisconsin Election Commission wrote in a press release [9]on November 1. 

“A losing candidate who wants to ask for a recount must wait until the last day a county board of canvassers meets, which is at least one week after the election,” the release continued. “The deadline for requesting a recount is three business days after the Elections Commission receives the last statement from a county board of canvassers.” 

Who can request a recount in Wisconsin?

State law defines who has the authority to request a recount. 

Wis. Stat. § 9.01(1)(a)1[10] reads: “Any candidate voted for at any election who is an aggrieved party, as determined under subd. 5., or any elector who voted upon any referendum question at any election may petition for a recount.”

An ‘aggrieved party[11]‘ is defined in two ways: a candidate who is trailing in an election in which 4,000 or fewer votes are cast, and who trails by no more than 40 votes; or a candidate who is trailing in an election in which more than 4,000 votes are cast, and who trails by no more than one percent of the total votes cast.

As of 4:00 p.m., according to the WUSA9 election map, President Trump trailed Joe Biden in Wisconsin by less than one percent.

By 6:00, the WUSA9 map showed that Joe Biden continued to lead President Trump by the same margin.

What is the process for requesting a recount in a presidential election?

According to the recount manual, it’s done by filing a sworn petition[12] with the Wisconsin Elections Commission, that lays out why the ballots should be recounted.

“This can consist of a general statement that the petitioner believes that a mistake or fraud was committed in a specified ward or municipality in the counting and return of the votes cast for the office; or more specific grounds, such as a particular defect, irregularity, or illegality in the conduct of the election, may be listed in the petition,” the commission writes. 

“The petitioner shall state if this information is based on personal knowledge of the petitioner or if the petitioner believes the information to be true based on information received from other sources. Wis. Stat. § 9.01(1)(a)2.b “

As for the petition deadline, it’s more of a window.

Trump’s campaign has until 5 pm on the first businesses day after the Commission receives the last statement from the county board of canvassers for the election.

Wisconsin’s canvass began November 4, Wolfe said in a recent Zoom call[13]

Under Wisconsin law[14], the county clerk must deliver a certified statement to the elections commission no later than 14 days after the general election, or November 17, this year. 

However that’s just a deadline, the counties could return a certified statement before then, which is why the deadline for when President Trump must file his petition is still a moving target, but must happen soon.


  1. ^ issued a statement (
  2. ^ At 1:16 p.m. (
  3. ^ WUSA9 relies (
  4. ^ Zoom call (
  5. ^ recount manual (
  6. ^ Wisconsin Elections Commission (
  7. ^ statements  (
  8. ^ Washington, D.C. (
  9. ^ press release  (
  10. ^ Wis. Stat. § 9.01(1)(a)1 (
  11. ^ aggrieved party (
  12. ^  sworn petition (
  13. ^ Zoom call (
  14. ^ Under Wisconsin law (

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