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Statewide recounts rarely lead to change in winners

MADISON, Wis. — The presidential recount vote underway in Wisconsin is costing millions of dollars, diverting county workers from their normal end-of-year duties and raising questions about the integrity of the vote.

What it isn't expected to do is overturn Donald Trump's victory in the state, which paved his way to the White House. In fact, a nonprofit group's data shows that recounts rarely result in victories being reversed.

Trump won Wisconsin by more than 22,000 votes over Hillary Clinton, a nearly insurmountable lead for a recount to overturn. Clinton's attorney, Marc Elias, said in a post last week on Medium that he didn't expect Clinton's losses to be overturned in Wisconsin, Michigan or Pennsylvania.

Wisconsin election officials, including the Democratic chairman of the state Elections Commission, all said they expected Trump's victory to stand.

"I think we will be very close to what was reported on election night," Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell said Thursday.

Only three of 27 statewide recounts between 2000 and 2015 resulted in a victory being reversed, according to FairVote, a nonpartisan group that tracks recounts. The most recent was Democrat Al Franken's U.S. Senate win in Minnesota in 2008. The other two were Thomas Salmon's 2006 victory as auditor in Vermont and Christine Gregoire's win in Washington's 2004 gubernatorial race.

Statewide recounts resulted in an average margin swing of 282 votes between the front-runners, or 0.0191 percent of the statewide vote, the group's analysis showed.

Even the candidate who requested the recounts in Wisconsin and other states — Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein — didn't do it with the hope of improving her standing (she got 30,000 votes out of nearly 3 million cast in Wisconsin). Stein said her intent was not to overturn the results of the election but to ensure the integrity of the vote, even though she had no evidence of any wrongdoing.

"Verifying the vote through this recount is the only way to confirm that every vote has been counted securely and accurately and is not compromised by machine or human error, or by tampering or hacking," Stein said Thursday when Wisconsin's recount began. "The recount does not benefit one candidate over another. It benefits all voters across the political spectrum."

At least 51 Wisconsin counties are doing the recount by hand, another 9 are doing a partial hand recount and 12 are relying on optical scanning machines.

Just like most recounts nationally, the last statewide recount in Wisconsin resulted in few changes. The 2011 Wisconsin Supreme Court recounted total was just 312 votes different from before, leaving Justice David Prosser with a 7,004 victory over challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg.

Republican Gov. Scott Walker, a Trump supporter who was the target of a 2011 statewide recount, shared the sentiments of many regarding the presidential retabulation.

"I assume the results will end up fairly similar," he said Friday. "Anytime there's a canvass or a recount there's slight adjustments but I don't think you're going to see a significant adjustment."

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