Recounts barely making dent in election results; Trump gains in Wisconsin

By Andrew O'Reilly Published
December 07, 2016

Statewide recounts in key 2016 battlegrounds are proceeding in fits and starts -- but doing little to change the math behind Donald Trump's victory.

In Wisconsin, one of three states where Green Party candidate Jill Stein has sought a fresh tabulation, the president-elect has even gained on Hillary Clinton.

The push for a recount in Pennsylvania, meanwhile, is awaiting a federal court's OK, and a similar effort in Michigan has run into new judicial turbulence. But while Trump narrowly defeated Clinton in all three states, the numbers trickling in look unlikely to call into question the Nov. 8 results.

“In any election, the actual change in the margin of votes is very, very low,” Drew Spencer Penrose, legal director at FairVote, told “For people hoping for a change in results, I wouldn’t hold my breath.”

Here’s a rundown of what is happening in each state:


With the Wisconsin Election Commission working since last Thursday – when Stein paid $3.5 million for the recount after alleging reports of fraud – there has been little change so far to the unofficial results reported on Election Day. Trump won the state by 22,000 votes over Clinton.

In a twist, Trump is gaining.

By Wednesday morning, Trump had widened his victory margin over Clinton in Wisconsin by 146 votes, with 23 of the state's 72 counties having finished their recounts as of Tuesday. In those counties, Trump gained 105 votes and Clinton dropped 41 votes.

Stein, who received about 1 percent of the vote in the states under question, said her intent was not to help Clinton, but to verify the accuracy of the count as she believed the votes were susceptible to computer hacking.

“We’re not finding any problems with the machines,” Reid Magney, a spokesperson for the Wisconsin Elections Commission, told “The Stein campaign wanted a recount because they thought there was some problems with our machines and that was not the case.”

Whatever Stein’s reasons, it appears the recount has been more of a help than a hindrance to Trump, who saw the number of votes for him go up in several counties.

In Green Lake County, which sits about 100 miles northwest of Milwaukee, the unofficial results from election night had Trump winning with 6,213 votes to Clinton’s 2,701. The recount found that Trump actually received 6,216 votes while Clinton lost eight votes to finish with 2,693.

And in those counties where Clinton picked up votes on Trump, Wisconsin officials said the number was not enough to influence the results.

“The overall results will not change,” Magney said. “It’s two votes here, two votes there.”

The remaining counties in the Badger State have until Dec. 12 to recount their votes in order for Wisconsin to certify its results by the following day, and ensure they count when the Electoral College votes on Dec. 19.


A statewide hand recount of Michigan’s roughly 2.8 million ballots that began on Monday is now up in the air as a federal judge will hold a hearing Wednesday on whether to stop it.

The state elections board also is meeting Wednesday, a day after the Michigan appeals court ordered it to dismiss Stein's recount petition, claiming she has no standing. The court noted that she received 1 percent of the vote and has no chance of catching Trump, who narrowly defeated Clinton in the state. A federal judge takes up the matter next.

According to the certified results from late November, Trump won the state by about 10,700 votes – or about two-tenths of a percentage point. The recount so far was looking at eight counties, including the state’s largest, Wayne.

A controversy also is brewing in that county as officials said Tuesday that one-third of precincts could be disqualified from the recount because of problems with ballots.

Wayne County – home to Detroit – overwhelmingly voted for Clinton late last month, but officials couldn’t reconcile vote totals for 610 of 1,680 precincts during a countywide canvass of vote results. During the canvass, the number of ballots in precinct poll books did not match those of voting machine printout reports in 59 percent of precincts, 392 of 662.

Michigan state law prohibits precincts whose poll books don’t match with ballots from recounting votes.

Despite the issue in Wayne County, experts say it will have little effect on the results in Michigan, or nationally.

“They are not going to affect the decision, but the discrepancy certainly warrants further investigation,” Ned Foley, a professor of election law at Ohio State University, told “Even if it did change the results in Michigan, it still wouldn’t matter because Clinton needed to win all three states to surpass Trump in the Electoral College.”


Verification measures have been taken in the Keystone State’s two largest counties – Philadelphia and Allegheny (home of Pittsburgh) – but the fate of a statewide recount rests in the hands of a federal court after Stein’s Green Party filed a federal lawsuit on Monday.

While Pennsylvania has yet to certify its results from November’s election, an updated count by state election officials saw Trump’s lead shrink to just about 46,000 over Clinton out of the 6 million votes cast in the state.

So far there have been very few reports of discrepancies in the recounts that have taken place.

A re-examination of Allegheny County voting machine results did not change any votes and, in Philadelphia, Clinton gained only five votes after the City Commissioner's Office recounted votes in 75 of Philadelphia's more than 1,600 voting divisions in response to the recount appeal by more than 250 Philadelphia residents.

These numbers are still shy of Pennsylvania's 0.5 percent trigger for an automatic statewide recount.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.