The Wisconsin Elections Commission issued an order on Thursday to recount more than 800,000 ballots cast in two counties at President Donald Trump’s request.
The order, required by law after Trump paid $3 million for the recount, was approved after more than five hours of rancorous debate on Wednesday night that foreshadows the partisan battle ahead.
“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 commission is split 3-3 between Democrats and Republicans.
The recounts in Milwaukee and Dane counties, where Joe Biden defeated Trump by a more than 2-to-1 margin, will begin Friday and must be done by Dec. 1. Trump’s campaign has cited “irregularities” in the counties.
Biden won statewide by more than 20,000 votes.
“We understand the eyes of the world will be on these Wisconsin counties over the next few weeks,” Meagan Wolfe, Wisconsin’s top elections official, said Thursday.
“We remain committed to providing information about the process and assisting our county clerks by providing facts on the mechanics of a recount and status updates.”
The commission argued over making changes to its manual that provides guidance to local elections officials over how to conduct recounts.
Republicans balked, saying the guidelines should not be changed after Trump filed for the recount.
Ultimately, they decided not to refer to the manual in the order, leaving in place guidance that says absentee ballot applications must be approved as part of the recount.
Democratic commissioners said they were certain the recount was headed to court.
Board Chair Ann Jacobs, a Democrat, said Trump’s allegation that election clerks mailed thousands of absentee ballots to voters who hadn’t requested them was “absurd,” “factually bizarre” and a “vague, paranoid conspiracy.”
“What we ought not be doing is watering that plant of baloney,” she said.
Republican commissioners Dean Knudson and Bob Spindell questioned whether election observers would be treated fairly by Democratic county clerks in Milwaukee and Madison.
The disputes at the commission echoed what happened in Michigan on Tuesday.
Republicans on a canvassing board for the county that includes Detroit temporarily stopped certification of the vote after claiming that poll books in certain parts of the city were out of balance.
The board later voted unanimously to certify the results. The Republicans then said they want to reverse their stance, but officials said certification of the vote will stand.
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