By Jarrett Renshaw and Jason Lange
WILMINGTON, Del./WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign on Wednesday requested a partial recount of Wisconsin’s presidential election results, as part of its long-shot attempt to reverse President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.
While staying out of the public eye, the Republican Trump has persisted in venting his anger on Twitter, where he made claims of election fraud, some of which were unsupported by evidence and others demonstrably untrue.
Election officials in Wisconsin, as well as in Georgia, said recounts in those states were very unlikely to reverse Trump’s losses.
Biden, a Democrat, warned that the continued delay in recognizing him as winner could mean the United States will be “behind by weeks and months” in the preparations to distribute a coronavirus vaccine.
Trump’s unfounded claims about the election having been “rigged” are failing in courts, but opinion polls show they have a political benefit, with as many as half of Trump’s fellow Republicans believing them, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll.
The Wisconsin Elections Commission said it would oversee recounts in two heavily Democratic counties – Milwaukee and Dane, which includes Madison – after the Trump campaign paid the $3 million cost, less than the $7.9 million estimated cost of a statewide recount.
Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell said a recount would start on Friday and finish within days. Only a few hundred votes changed in the county’s recount after the 2016 presidential election, he said.
“My guess would be that by focusing on Dane and Milwaukee the end result will be that Biden will have a slight increase in votes, but nothing terribly significant – certainly nothing anywhere near what would be required for changing the outcomes,” McDonell said.
In the state-by-state Electoral College that determines the election winner, Biden captured 306 votes to Trump’s 232. He won the popular vote by more than 5.8 million.
Biden won Wisconsin by more than 20,000 votes to lead Trump 49.5% to 48.8%.
To remain in office, Trump would need to overturn results in at least three large and closely competitive states to reach the threshold of 270 electoral votes. That would be unprecedented.
The president is clinging to hope that a manual recount ordered by Georgia can erase Biden’s 14,000-vote lead there and is also challenging results in the swing state of Michigan.
Gabriel Sterling, Georgia’s voting system implementation manager, told journalists that as of Wednesday morning, election officials conducting the recount had reviewed 4,968,000 ballots – nearly all of those cast – and found Biden’s lead over Trump had fallen to 12,781 ballots, down from 14,156 previously.
Sterling said there was no evidence that fraud could have changed the outcome in Georgia.
FALSE CLAIM ON DETROIT
Trump on Wednesday falsely claimed that the number of votes counted in heavily Democratic Detroit, the largest city in Michigan, had surpassed the number of residents.
“In Detroit, there are FAR MORE VOTES THAN PEOPLE. Nothing can be done to cure that giant scam. I win Michigan!” he tweeted.
City records show that 250,138 votes were cast there in the presidential election. That is a little more than a third of the city’s population, which according to the U.S. Census Bureau is 670,031.
In a rare win for Trump in his legal assault on the election results, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court said on Wednesday it would take up an appeal challenging thousands of mail-in votes cast in Philadelphia that were missing information on the return envelopes.
Trump’s refusal to concede the Nov. 3 election is blocking the smooth transition to a new administration and complicating Biden’s response to the coronavirus pandemic when he takes office on Jan. 20.
Biden on Wednesday held a virtual meeting with frontline healthcare workers in Delaware who complained about a lack of personal protective equipment and COVID-19 tests for themselves.
He warned that the delay in declaring him the election winner could mean that “soon we’re going to be behind by weeks or months being able to put together the whole initiative” to distribute coronavirus vaccines when they become available.
The General Services Administration agency, run by a Trump appointee, has yet to formally declare an election winner. Biden’s team says this is hindering coordination with the current White House coronavirus task force.
States face a Dec. 8 deadline to certify election results in time for the official Electoral College vote on Dec. 14.
Congress is scheduled to count the Electoral College votes on Jan. 6, which is normally a formality. But Trump supporters in the Senate and House of Representatives could object to the results in a final, long-shot attempt to deprive Biden of 270 electoral votes and turn the final decision over to the House.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Wednesday showed about half of Republicans believe Trump “rightfully won” but the election was stolen from him.
Seventy-three percent of all voters polled agreed Biden won while 5% thought Trump won. But when asked specifically whether Biden had “rightfully won,” 52% of Republicans said Trump rightfully won, while only 29% said Biden had rightfully won.
Election officials from both parties, around the United States, have said there was no evidence of vote tampering, and a federal review drew the same conclusion.
As he battles to save his presidency, Trump will stay in Washington over next week’s Thanksgiving holiday, rather than travel to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, a spokeswoman for first lady Melania Trump said.
(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt in Delaware, Jason Lange, John Whitesides and Simon Lewis in Washington; Additional reporting by Daniel Trotta; Writing by Alistair Bell; Editing by Scott Malone and Howard Goller)