Judge rejects Trump supporters' bid to halt vote recount in Wisconsin
Similar lawsuits launched to delay recounts in Michigan and Pennsylvania
A federal court in Wisconsin on Friday rejected an attempt by pro-Donald Trump groups to stop a recount of the state's presidential vote, saying there was no harm in allowing it to continue.
Two pro-Trump political action committees and a Wisconsin voter on Thursday filed a lawsuit and a request for a temporary restraining order seeking to stop the recount, arguing that it was an unconstitutional violation of the rights of people who had voted for Trump.
But U.S. District Judge James Peterson on Friday denied the motion to temporarily halt the recount, saying there would be no harm in allowing it to proceed while the state prepares arguments in defence.
Peterson scheduled a hearing for Dec. 9 on the underlying lawsuit.
Trump's supporters also moved Friday to prevent or halt election recounts in Michigan and Pennsylvania.
All three are states Trump narrowly won in the Nov. 8 presidential election. They have less than two weeks to complete the recounts in order to meet a federal Dec. 13 deadline to certify their election results.
The legal actions could cause delays that would make that extremely difficult if not impossible. Even if the recounts happen, though, none would be expected to overturn the results in Democrat Hillary Clinton's favour.
Clinton gains 1 vote in Wisconsin
The recounts were requested by Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, who says they're necessary to ensure that voting machines weren't hacked, even though there's no evidence they were. Critics say Stein is simply trying to raise money and her political profile while building a donor database.
Our goal is not to change the result of the election. It is to ensure the integrity and accuracy of the vote.- Jill Stein, Green Party presidential candidate
"Our goal is not to change the result of the election," Stein said in an opinion piece released Thursday. "It is to ensure the integrity and accuracy of the vote."
Wisconsin is the only state where a recount is underway. It began Thursday, and one of the state's 72 counties had already completed its recount by Friday, with Clinton gaining a single vote on Trump.
The lawsuit says Wisconsin is violating the U.S. Supreme Court's 2000 Bush vs. Gore ruling because it doesn't have uniform standards to determine which votes should be counted in a recount. They also argue that it threatens the right of due process because it may not get done by the federal deadline to certify the vote, putting Wisconsin's electoral votes in jeopardy.
If states miss the deadline, Congress would allot their electoral votes.
Stein a 'bottom-dwelling candidate': lawyers
In their filing to Michigan election board, Trump's lawyers argued that Stein, a "bottom-dwelling candidate" who finished so far behind Trump and Clinton that she couldn't have won, even if some votes were miscounted, shouldn't be allowed to force an expensive and time-consuming recount. Stein got about one per cent of the vote in all three states.
The Trump lawyers also said in their objection that Stein waited until the last minute to file her recount petition Wednesday, making it impossible to finish by the Dec. 13 deadline.
Stein countered Thursday that Trump's "cynical efforts to delay the recount and create unnecessary costs for taxpayers are shameful and outrageous."
Michigan board deadlocked
Michigan's elections board was deadlocked Friday. Both Republican members voted to prevent the recount while the two Democrats voted to allow it, meaning it would begin Tuesday or Wednesday unless the courts intervene. It also would be conducted by hand, as Stein requested.
Michigan's Republican attorney general asked the state Court of Appeals and state Supreme Court to intervene, echoing the Trump campaign's arguments.
The Michigan courts appeared unlikely to rule immediately, with one asking for a response from state elections officials by Tuesday.
Pennsylvania hearing Monday
In Pennsylvania, a hearing is scheduled for Monday on Stein's push to secure a court-ordered statewide recount there.
Republican lawyers filed a motion that was posted on the court's website Friday accusing Stein of engaging in legal antics and saying her recount request endangers Pennsylvania's ability to certify its electors by the federal deadline.
Stein has argued, without evidence, that irregularities in the votes in all three states suggest that there could have been
tampering with the vote, perhaps through a well-co-ordinated, highly complex cyberattack.
Elections officials in the three states have expressed confidence in their results.
Trump defeated Clinton in Wisconsin by about 22,000 votes, or less than one percentage point. His margin of victory in Michigan was even slimmer, at about 10,700 votes out of 4.8 million cast.