If Donald Trump were to challenge the outcome of next month’s presidential election, as he has hinted he might, he would face a difficult and expensive fight, according to election attorneys and a review of voting laws in key battleground states. Trump has said he is worried the Nov. 8 election might be rigged in favor of his opponent, Hillary Clinton, and in Wednesday’s debate he refused to say he would accept the outcome. But before any court challenge, Trump probably would have to ask for a recount, said Donald Brey, a Republican election lawyer in Ohio. If the campaign did not pursue out-of-court options first, he said, a judge likely would dismiss the case. Recount rules vary from state to state. North Carolina, for example, doesn’t allow a presidential candidate to request a recount at all if one candidate has a lead of more than 0.5 percent of the total votes cast. In Wisconsin, the challenging candidate must pay the full expense of a recount if the vote in dispute is more than 0.25 percent, and in Colorado if it is more than 0.5 percent.
That can be expensive. Officials in one Wisconsin village put the cost of a local recount, in which about 9,000 votes were cast earlier this year, at nearly $13,000, said Michael Maistelman, a Wisconsin election lawyer who represented the unsuccessful candidate. More than 3 million people voted in the 2012 presidential election in Wisconsin.
Deciding where to challenge the election would be complicated. Trump, who trailed Clinton by 7 percentage points nationwide in a Reuters/Ipsos poll released last week, is fighting tight battles in some key states. In Ohio, for example, an average of major opinion polls reviewed by the RealClearPolitics website found Trump to be leading by less than 1 percentage point. In Iowa, he is leading by nearly 4 percent.