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Green Party presidential candidate to sue for hand recount in Wisconsin

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Jill Stein speaks in Minneapolis
Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein speaks at a press conference in Minneapolis this summer.
Evan Frost | MPR News file

Updated: 3:33 p.m. | Posted: 11:30 a.m.

Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein said Monday she will ask a judge to force a hand recount of nearly 3 million ballots cast in Wisconsin after the state Elections Commission rejected her call to do that.

The commission voted unanimously to move ahead with a recall timeline that would start the process on Thursday. But the commission left it up to local election officials to determine the best method for conducting the recount, either by hand or using ballot tabulation machines.

Stein issued a press release saying she would ask a Dane County Circuit judge to intervene and force the hand recount, a process that would be more expensive and take longer than the more traditional recount. Her campaign spokeswoman did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

Stein's Wisconsin recount request included an affidavit from University of Michigan computer scientist J. Alex Halderman stating that a hand recount is the only way to determine whether there could have been a cyberattack that affected the results. He argued that records stored in electronic voting equipment could have been manipulated in an attack.

The decentralized nature of Wisconsin's voting system, and the fact that the equipment in question is not connected to the internet, makes it difficult to see how there could have been a widespread attack, said Wisconsin Election Commission administrator Mike Haas.

Wisconsin Elections Commission Chairman Mark Thomsen vigorously defended Wisconsin's election system, saying he was certain that president-elect Donald Trump would emerge as the winner after the recount. Trump beat Democrat Hillary Clinton by 22,170 votes, based on unofficial results.

"We are confident in our popular vote count," Thomsen said.

Trump is claiming, without evidence, that millions of people voted illegally in the election he won, issuing the baseless claim as part of his angry response to a recount effort led by the Green Party and joined by Hillary Clinton's campaign.

Stein and Independent candidate Roque "Rocky" De La Fuente each requested a recount Friday in Wisconsin. They would have to pay the cost, which could top $1 million, before the recount would begin on Thursday. Elections officials were to receive cost estimates on Monday and to bill the campaigns on Tuesday.

Thomsen, a Democrat, called on Trump to "come down from his Trump Tower" and observe the recount in Wisconsin. "To say that it's not being fair or people are counting illegal votes, from my vantage point, is an insult to people running our elections," Thomsen told reporters after the commission approved a timeline for the recount.

"Someone has the bully pulpit and somebody has impact on our citizens' right to trust what happens down the block at their polling stations. I've never seen this kind of attack on poll workers and how this system works."

Stein hopes to raise $7 million for recounts in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, saying it's important to determine whether hacking affected the results. Trump narrowly won all three states. There's no evidence that voter results were hacked or electronic voting machines were compromised.

The recount would include an examination of all ballots, poll lists, absentee applications, rejected absentee ballots and provisional ballots.

The last statewide recount in Wisconsin was for a state Supreme Court race in 2011. The recount showed Justice David Prosser defeated challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg by 7,004 votes, just 312 votes less than the unofficial results showed.

That effort took more than a month and involved about half as many votes as the nearly 3 million votes cast in this year's presidential election in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin's unofficial election results show President-elect Donald Trump with 1,404,000 votes, Hillary Clinton with 1,381,823 votes, Stein with 31,000 votes and De La Fuente with 1,514.

Trump's victory in Wisconsin marked the first time since 1984 that a Republican presidential candidate carried the state.