Election recount will cost Trump almost $8 million

By: - November 16, 2020 3:50 pm
President Trump in the last presidential debate

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE – OCTOBER 22: U.S. President Donald Trump participates in the final presidential debate against Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden at Belmont University on October 22, 2020 in Nashville, Tennessee. This is the last debate between the two candidates before the election on November 3. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

A recount of Wisconsin’s 2020 presidential election results will cost the campaign of President Donald Trump nearly $8 million, according to an estimate from the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC). 

In the hours after the Associated Press and other media outlets called Wisconsin for  President-elect Joe Biden, Trump’s campaign signaled it would be requesting a recount in the state Biden won by more than 20,000 votes. 

In Wisconsin, second-place finishers can  request a recount if the gap between the two candidates  is less than one percentage point. However, if the margin is greater than 0.25%, the requesting party must pay up front for the estimated costs. 

In this case, after all 72 counties and the WEC calculated how much it will cost to re-tally the votes, the Trump campaign will need to pay $7,911,396.07. 

“We still have not received any indication that there will or will not be a recount,” WEC administrator Meagan Wolfe said in a news release.  “But we want Wisconsin’s voters to know we are ready.”

In 2016, Green Party candidate Jill Stein requested a recount and the estimated cost was $3.5 million. 

The recount will cost more this time because of added factors such as the need for more space due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Our county clerks have carefully estimated their costs for recounting 3.2 million ballots, which is approximately $7.9 million,” Wolfe said.  “These estimates are significantly higher than the actual costs of the 2016 recount, but they take into account factors not present four years ago, including the need for larger spaces to permit public observation and social distancing, security for those spaces, the higher number of absentee ballots, a compressed time frame over a holiday, and renting high-speed ballot scanning equipment.”


The recount, if it happens, must be requested by 5 p.m. one business day after the last county certifies its results. All but a few counties have sent certified results to the state and the county deadline is Nov. 17. The Trump campaign will likely need to request the recount by 5 p.m. on Wednesday. 

County boards of canvassers must convene by 9 a.m. on the third day after the recount is requested. Recounts must be completed by noon on Dec. 1, which is the statutory deadline by which the WEC must certify the state’s results. 

The Trump campaign, in its fight to delegitimize the results of the election, has had lawsuits thrown out or withdrawn from  courts across the country and has been running a fundraising operation alongside those efforts. After its early signal for a recount, it’s unclear if one will actually happen in Wisconsin.

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Henry Redman
Henry Redman

Henry Redman is a staff reporter for the Wisconsin Examiner who focuses on covering Wisconsin's towns and rural areas. He previously covered crime and courts at the Daily Jefferson County Union. A lifelong Midwesterner, he was born in Cleveland, Ohio and graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a degree in journalism in May 2019.