WEC chair determines results of presidential election, Evers certifies them

Determination by Jacobs came over unclear objections from Republican commission members

Wisconsin Elections Commission Chair Ann Jacobs determines the results of the 2020 presidential election and recounts. (Screenshot | WisEye)

Update: Gov. Tony Evers announced at 5 p.m. on Monday that he had certified the results of the presidential election, awarding Wisconsin’s 10 electoral votes to Joe Biden.

“Today I carried out my duty to certify the November 3rd election, and as required by state and federal law, I’ve signed the Certificate of Ascertainment for the slate of electors for President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris,” Evers said in a release. “I want to thank our clerks, election administrators, and poll workers across our state for working tirelessly to ensure we had a safe, fair, and efficient election. Thank you for all your good work.”

Wisconsin Elections Commission Chair Ann Jacobs made her determination of the recount and the results of the state’s 2020 presidential election earlier on Monday afternoon. Jacobs officially recognized that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris had received the most votes in Wisconsin.

This procedural matter, in which Jacobs recognizes the presidential election results in each county, opened the door for the campaign of President Donald Trump to file an appeal. The determination is different from certification, which officially decides which party will choose the state’s presidential electors. 

The Trump campaign’s requested recount in Dane and Milwaukee counties was widely seen as the set-up for an appeal of this determination by Jacobs. 

The Trump campaign has five days to appeal the results of the recounts in circuit court and Wisconsin State Supreme Court Chief Justice Patience Roggensack will determine which court is assigned the appeal. 

Trump on Saturday tweeted that an appeal would be filed in Wisconsin by Tuesday. 

The determination on Monday was — in a departure from most other WEC business — quick and easy. All Jacobs had to do was confirm each county had sent its canvassed results with no errors and sign a piece of paper. 

The public meeting in which the determination was made was announced the previous day, a move that annoyed some of the commission’s Republican members, although it complied with Wisconsin open records law. Commissioner Robert Spindell told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that “obviously, she’s trying to pull a fast one for some reason.” 

However, in an interview with the Wisconsin Examiner, Spindell could not say what that “fast one” was. He could only speculate that the Monday determination meant the results would be certified before the Trump campaign could file its appeal.

“The important point here is it’s not the certification, it’s the determination,” Spindell said. “I think also, one could take a look at the law, lawyers are better than I am at this. Maybe if the certification took place before the appeal was filed or a court order could cause complications. That could be what the Democrats are planning.”

Spindell’s most concrete gripe seemed to be that he heard about the meeting announcement through a media request and then an interview given by U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Milwaukee). 

“It seems to me that people were not notified of this,” Spindell says. “It’s sort of interesting, I heard about it from a reporter and hadn’t heard about it. In my car I heard Gwen Moore say, ‘We’re certifying the results early.’”

Spindell didn’t answer why in his view allowing the Trump campaign to file its lawsuit sooner amounted to a nefarious Democratic plot. In fact, the Trump team is running out of time because the electoral college meets to officially elect Joe Biden on Dec. 14. 

WEC staff insists the process is moving along just as it always has and that the Trump campaign will retain its right to an appeal. 

“This is the exact process followed for the 2016 presidential election where the determination was made and the statement of ascertainment sent immediately after the conclusion of the recount,” a news release from the Elections Commission states. “The Chairperson of the Commission, or their designee, has always signed the determination and certificates of election, as is outlined under state law. This has been the process followed under the leadership of both Democratic and Republican Chairs of the Commission. The full Commission has never voted on the canvass, determination, certification or the preparation or issuance of certificates. This is the process that has been used for more than 20 elections under the bipartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission.” 

The commission is scheduled to meet Dec. 1 to certify the results in every other 2020 general election race. The Trump campaign has until Dec. 4 to file its appeal.