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Are Ballots Recounted By Hand? Jill Stein Sued Wisconsin Clerks Worried About Deadlines

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Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein's efforts to force a recount in Wisconsin were successful this week, with The Wisconsin Elections Commission agreeing on Monday to a statewide recount. But a controversy has arisen over whether the Wisconsin ballots will be counted by hand. According to The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Stein entered a lawsuit against the commission early Monday evening after it refused to require county officials in each of Wisconsin's 72 counties to count ballots by hand.

The lawsuit, which was filed in the Dane County Circuit Court, came swiftly after the commission voted unanimously on Monday to allow officials in each county to determine whether ballots would be counted electronically or by hand. According to The Chicago Tribune, "more than 30" of the 72 counties in question plan to count by hand, regardless of whether it's mandatory. The recount, which The Sentinel characterizes as "a race to finish," is scheduled to begin on Thursday. Officials will have less than two weeks to complete the recount of the nearly 3 million votes in Wisconsin.  

The petition to recount was filed on Friday by both Stein and Independent candidate Roque De La Fuente. Current numbers show that Stein won 31,000 votes in Wisconsin, while La Fuente received 1,500. Trump won the state by a 22,177 vote margin over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.  

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MILWAUKEE, WI - APRIL 27: Members of the Milwaukee County Election Commission recount the ballets for the Wisconsin Supreme Court race between incumbent Justice David Prosser and Assistant Attorney General JoAnne Kloppenburg at the Milwaukee County Sports Complex April 27, 2011 Milwaukee. Observers from the Prosser and Kloppenburg campaign were overseeing the process to validate the recount. (Photo by Darren Hauck/Getty Images)

Wisconsin officials have reason to be wary of the recount process. In 2011, The Wisconsin Election Commission oversaw the widely-publicized recount of a state Supreme Court race. According to The Tribune, "that effort took more than a month and involved about half as many votes as the nearly 3 million votes cast in this year's presidential election in Wisconsin."

Milwaukee's local Fox6 News reports that election officials are overwhelmed by the enormity of their task. Joe Czarnezki, a Milwaukee County clerk, told Fox6 that “hand counting is a little more difficult. It's exactly what it says — each ballot will be examined and hand tallied. And these new machines are much faster."

The "machines" that Czarnezki referenced are the optical reading machines through which the ballots were originally cast on Election Day. The majority of Wisconsin precincts use paper ballots that are fed through these machines, which electronically record the vote. In an electronic recount, the ballots would be fed through the machines again, whereas in a hand recount, officials would record the vote of each ballot by hand.

County clerks across the state are working out the logistical kinks of a recount, such as finalizing the locations, hiring security, and granular necessities like bringing in tables and chairs. The Sentinel reports that several clerks are recruiting individuals who worked as poll workers during the election, since they've already been trained.

Stein must pay $3.5 million to the commission by Tuesday in order for the recount to proceed. To date, she has raised over $6.3 million in online fundraising to pay for recount efforts in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. On Monday, attorneys for the Stein campaign filed suit in Pennsylvania for a statewide vote recount, and something similar is planned for Michigan, where the deadline to request a recount is Wednesday. In Michigan, Trump beat Clinton by a narrow margin of 10,704 votes.  

In an interview with MSNBC, Stein recognized that the recount is unlikely to change the election's outcome. "This is not about helping on candidate or hurting another candidate," she said. "... this is an election in which there has been hacking and allegations of tampering all over the place ... we deserve to have peace of mind."

At present, Clinton is leading the popular vote by 2.2 million votes.