Gov. Scott Walker signaled support Wednesday for a bill that would only allow candidates to request a recount in state and local races if they trail the winner by a certain margin. The bill is a direct response to last year’s presidential recount that was triggered and paid for by Green Party candidate Jill Stein, who received 1 percent of the vote. The recount, which cost Stein’s campaign a little more than $2 million and county and municipal clerks thousands of hours of additional work during a traditionally busy time of year, resulted in Donald Trump extending his lead over Hillary Clinton by 131 votes. It also revealed more than 11,000 errors in how ballots were counted on election night out of 3 million total votes cast, but no major flaws in the state election system. Sen. Devin LeMahieu, R-Oostburg, and Reps. Jeremy Thiesfeldt, R-Fond du Lac, and Ron Tusler, R-Harrison, are lead sponsors of the bill, which LeMahieu said in December he would introduce in response to the recount. Walker also signaled support for such a proposal then, but details weren’t yet available.
The bill would only allow an “aggrieved party” to request a recount. An aggrieved party is someone trailing by 1 percent of the total in contests with more than 4,000 votes. In races with fewer than 4,000 votes cast, only someone trailing by 40 or fewer votes could request a recount.
Walker wouldn’t say whether 1 percent was the right margin, but said “it makes sense if it’s close that people should have a right to a recount, but it should be within a reasonable margin. People would expect that someone who’s close should have a shot to have a recount, but to have someone who is in third or fourth place, I think a lot of people, regardless of party, rolled their eyes when that happened,” Walker said.
Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, said she won’t be signing on to the bill because she doesn’t want the Legislature to be sidetracked from more important issues such as transportation, affordable child care and student loan debt. “I haven’t had a single person come up to me saying we need less election accountability,” Shilling said. “This bill is another example of how out-of-touch Republican politicians are with the challenges facing hard-working families in Wisconsin.”