Court in Wisconsin rejects bid by pro-Trump groups to stop vote recount
A federal court in Wisconsin has 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 Constitutional rights of people who had voted for Trump.
But US 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.
Judge Peterson scheduled a hearing for December 9 on the underlying lawsuit.
Meanwhile President-elect Trump's margin of victory in Pennsylvania is shrinking as more counties finish tallying their votes.
An updated count on Friday by state election officials shows Trump's lead over Democrat Hillary Clinton has shrunk to 49,000, from 71,000.
That puts Trump's lead at 0.8%, down from over 1%, out of six million votes cast. It is still shy of Pennsylvania's 0.5% trigger for an automatic statewide recount. Trump's Pennsylvania victory was crucial to his capturing the White House.
Donald Trump's supporters had moved to prevent or halt election recounts in Michigan and Pennsylvania as well as Wisconsin, involving the courts less than two weeks before the states would have to complete the tasks to meet a federal deadline to certify their election results.
The legal actions seeking to block or halt the recounts in three states Trump narrowly won could cause delays that would make them extremely difficult or impossible to complete on time.
The recounts were requested by Green Party candidate Jill Stein, who says they are necessary to ensure that voting machines were not hacked, even though there is no evidence that 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," Stein said in an opinion piece released Thursday. "It is to ensure the integrity and accuracy of the vote."
Wisconsin was the only state where a recount is under way. It began Thursday, and one of the state's 72 counties had already completed its task by Friday, with Clinton gaining a single a vote on Trump. Clinton lost to Trump in Wisconsin by about 22,000 votes, or less than one percentage point.
Michigan's elections board deadlocked on Friday on a Trump campaign request to deny Stein's recount request and on how a recount would be conducted. Both Republican members voted to prevent the recount while both Democrats voted to allow it, meaning it likely would begin on Wednesday unless the courts intervene. It also would be conducted by hand, as Stein requested.
In separate lawsuits against the state, Michigan's Republican attorney general and Trump asked state courts to prevent the recount, saying Stein should not be allowed to seek one because she finished so far behind Trump and Clinton that she could not have won, even if some votes were miscounted. Stein got about 1% of the vote in all three states.
The Michigan courts appeared unlikely to rule immediately, with one asking for a response from state elections officials by Tuesday.
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 cyber attack.
Elections officials in the three states have expressed confidence in their results.