Inside the Monona Terrace in downtown Madison, election officials set a steady pace processing and recounting ballots. Since Friday, processors have been working their way through Dane County’s more than 345,000 ballots.
As of this morning, they had parsed through about 83,000 — placing the recount a little less than a quarter of the way through, with just about a week to go until the state’s deadline.
Workers sit at rows of aligned, parallel tables throughout the hall. Opposite almost every one sits an observer, separated by a plexiglass window to prevent spread of the coronavirus.
The process hasn’t been entirely smooth sailing. Trump campaign representatives have already challenged the validity of thousands of ballots.
Trump attorney Christ Troupis argued before the three-person Dane County Board of Canvassers on Friday that election officials should dismiss all absentee ballots that don’t have a written application.
That request includes ballots cast absentee, by mail and early in-person. It could potentially disenfranchise thousands of voters in Dane and Milwaukee counties — two of the state’s liberal strongholds. The County Board of Supervisors voted to reject the objection, but did note it for future litigation.
Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell said on Friday, the first day of the recount, that the issue will likely wind up before the Wisconsin Supreme Court soon, as the Trump campaign continues its legal crusades in the battleground state.
“So, that’s a pretty astounding assertion that none of those ballots count,” Mcdonell said. “It’s an attack on the absentee ballot process and the whole framework. I tend to doubt that the courts will look favorably on that, especially cherry picking two counties.”
Trump’s legal team has also taken aim at absentee ballots filed by indefinitely confined voters — those who, for health or other reasons, are unable to vote in person. Per Wisconsin state law, voters who are indefinitely confined don’t have to present a photo ID to vote.
Trump’s legal team has argued that indefinitely confined ballots should be tossed. A federal lawsuit over ballots cast using the indefinitely confined provision in three Wisconsin counties is pending.
According to the Associated Press, Trump’s legal team has also challenged ballots filled out in two separate ink colors — they argue it could indicate that a poll worker helped fill out the ballot.
In Dane County, since there’s no way for an individual ballot to be linked to a specific voter, any amount disqualified by the courts will be through a “draw down.” Under that process, elections officials would discount a number of ballots, selected at random, equal to the amount agreed to in the objection.
The recount efforts at both the Monona Terrace and the Wisconsin Center in Milwaukee come three weeks after Joe Biden eked out a small win over President Donald Trump. Biden beat Trump by about 20,600 votes, with many of those coming from Madison and Milwaukee.
Legal experts speculate that the recount is a veiled effort for Trump to seek other means to overturn Wisconsin — by taking his case before the state’s conservative-leaning supreme court.
In a tweet this morning, Dane County Clerk Scott Mcdonell acknowledged the counting was a little bit behind schedule. Speaking with reporters on Friday, he said that the process will pick up speed as workers fall into a steady rhythm.
Dane County recount update beginning of Day 4. Total ballots tabulated 82,796 out of 345,604. Reporting units completed 55 of 253. We are slightly behind schedule but catching up. So grateful for all who are pitching in for democracy.
— Scott McDonell (@samcdonell) November 23, 2020
McDonell estimates about 70 recount workers are present in the Monona Terrace. There’s about an equal number of election observers, in addition to lawyers from both campaigns, plus convention center security and Madison police officers, and the media.
Elections officials are taking steps to prevent spread of coronavirus, including roaming hall monitors to remind people to keep their distance. But, the recount involves several hundred people enclosed in a single room, increasing the likelihood of transmission.
“I worry, because someone likely has the virus and doesn’t know it. So we’re going to be here for days and we’re going to have to crack down on that,” Mcdonell says.
Recounts in both counties must be wrapped up by December first, the same day the Wisconsin Elections Commission is required to certify the state’s vote.
Editor’s note: The name of the Trump campaign attorney is Christ Troupis, not Christ Toupis.