A Look at the Complicated Logistics of a Milwaukee Recount

A partial recount starts Friday in Milwaukee and Dane counties.

A recount of ballots cast in the U.S. presidential election in Milwaukee County communities will begin on Friday in a vast exhibition hall at the Wisconsin Center.

President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign requested a partial recount of Wisconsin’s election results, which have been projected in favor Democratic challenger Joe Biden. The Wisconsin Elections Commission on Wednesday confirmed it received a partial recount petition and a wire transfer from the Trump campaign for $3 million. A full statewide recount would have had a price tag of nearly $8 million.

The recount will be limited to Milwaukee and Dane counties, the state’s two Democratic strongholds.

Milwaukee County Elections Director Julietta Henry said in a virtual session with reporters on Wednesday that a moving company will load all ballots cast in the county’s 19 municipalities and supplies from the Nov. 3 election and transport them, under the watchful eyes of the Sheriff’s Department, to the Wisconsin Center in Downtown Milwaukee on Thursday.

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Voting equipment will also be delivered to the Wisconsin Center on Thursday.

The recount will begin at 9 a.m. Friday and must be completed by Dec. 1. The recount will be carried out from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day and will halt for just one day, Thanksgiving Day, until completed, Henry said.

About 240 staff from eight municipalities will take part in recount on the opening day. Each municipality is expected to complete their recount in one day, with the exception of the city of Milwaukee, according to Henry. High-speed tabulation equipment will be used to compile the recount totals.

“We will welcome the opportunity to show again that our elections and the process and the systems we have in place are accurate,” Henry said.

More than 130 tables will be set up in a third-floor hall at the Wisconsin Center.

Unofficial results show that Biden leads Trump by 20,470 votes in the race for Wisconsin’s 10 electoral votes. Trump has refused to concede to this point even though most projections show Biden with 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232. A total of 270 electoral votes are needed to win the presidency.

The 188,00-square-foot Wisconsin Center offers a viable option to keep workers as safe as possible as the coronavirus pandemic rages on, Milwaukee County Clerk George Christenson said.

Officials looked at several sites before deciding on the Wisconsin Center, he added.

“When we put together a floor plan, we were able to socially distance very liberally to allow people to stay safe,” Christenson said.

Wednesday’s announcement comes as nearly 8,000 COVID-19 cases, a single-day record-high, was reported in the state.

Christenson said nearly $400,000 will be spent on audio-visual equipment that will allow a public livestream to be broadcast from the Wisconsin Center to offer transparency of the process.

The Trump campaign said it is requesting recounts in Milwaukee and Dane counties because they are the sites of the “worst irregularities.”

Christenson sees it differently.

“They chose these two counties because they are Democratic strongholds,” he said. “Milwaukee is a majority-minority city. This is just another form of voter suppression in trying to attack our minority neighborhoods. That’s the reason.”

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett also blasted the recount effort.

“After a failed presidency and a failed campaign, the Trump campaign seeks to have what will soon be a failed recount effort,” Barrett said. “It’s a very futile attempt to try and disrupt democracy.”

The recount will require a mass gathering of workers as COVID-19 cases spike, which could put people’s health in peril, he said.

“After four years of racial attacks, after four years of attacks on cities, after four years of attempting to divide people, why wouldn’t President Trump end his presidency on one last failed attempt to divide us?” Barrett said.

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Rich Rovito is a freelance writer for Milwaukee Magazine.