Judge refuses to halt Wisconsin recount

Madison, Wis. — A federal judge refused to halt Wisconsin’s presidential recount Friday, telling President-elect Donald Trump’s supporters that the recount probably won’t change anything anyway.

Trump defeated Hillary Clinton by more than 22,000 votes in the state. With the recount more than 82 percent complete as of Wednesday, Clinton had gained only 61 votes.

“The relief you’re asking for is so clearly unwarranted,” U.S. District Judge James Peterson said during a 20-minute hearing. “The recount looks like it’s going smoothly and competently. It’s not going to have any impact on whether the electoral college meets or who takes office.”

Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein requested the recount to determine if election machines were hacked. Two pro-Trump groups, the Great America PAC and the Stop Hillary PAC, filed a federal lawsuit Dec. 1 — the day the recount began — to stop the process.

Peterson said Friday that the Wisconsin recount has so far revealed no irregularities.

Stein also requested recounts in Michigan and Pennsylvania — states that Trump narrowly won. A federal judge halted the recount in Michigan this week and a federal judge in Pennsylvania will hold a hearing Friday to consider whether that recount can even begin.

The PACs’ lawsuit contended Wisconsin was violating the U.S Supreme Court’s 2000 Bush v. Gore ruling because the state lacks uniform standards to determine which votes should be recounted. The lawsuit also argued that the recount threatened due process rights because it might not be completed by the federal deadline to certify the vote, putting Wisconsin’s electoral votes in jeopardy. If states miss the deadline, Congress allots their electoral votes.

The PACs also contended that they wouldn’t have enough time to dispute any problems that arise before the Dec. 13 certification deadline and that any appeal of recount results could create confusion about whether Wisconsin’s electoral votes are final.

Peterson would have none of it. He said the Bush v. Gore case doesn’t apply in Wisconsin’s recount. He said final decisions are often appealed but that doesn’t mean they’re not final.

“You’re just trying to clip Stein’s wings as to any future appeals when she hasn’t taken any action,” Peterson said. “(An appeal is not) going to have any impact on whether the electoral college meets or who takes office. We’ll probably be talking about the integrity (of the election) for a long time, but it’s clear as crystal to me I don’t have the basis for stopping the recount.”

He said he would decide in a few days whether to dismiss the lawsuit completely.

The PACs’ attorney, Michael Morley, said he would consult with his clients on whether to appeal.

Separately Friday, two Michigan Supreme Court members who made Trump’s list of possible U.S. Supreme Court nominees removed themselves from consideration of an appeal by Stein to restart the recount in that state.

The removals by Chief Justice Robert Young and Justice Joan Larsen came two days after a federal judge halted the recount in Michigan that began Monday. The federal judge tied his decision to a state court ruling that found Stein had no legal standing.

Stein’s appeal has only a remote chance of success. Three of the five remaining justices were GOP-nominated in their elections. Those five members haven’t yet decided whether to take the case.