Fact Check: 2016 recounts are paid primarily through private donations

I voted sticker_433503

WASHINGTON (MEDIA GENERAL) – Vote recounts are requested or underway right now in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

The battleground states were crucial in handing the 2016 election to President-elect Donald Trump.  Now, they face requests by Green Party candidate Jill Stein to recount their votes.

Mr. Trump’s team has had little success in stopping the recounts through legal challenges.

A federal judge ordered Michigan to begin its recount on Monday over the objections of Republicans.

Then, on Tuesday, a federal appeals court upheld the recount ruling just as a state appeals court decided that the effort should be discontinued.

As of this article, the recount continues.

It’s been a messy tangle of competing courts and legal opinions.

Turning to the court of public opinion, some Republicans are now making the argument that the recount effort, which Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s team is actively monitoring, will be an enormous waste of taxpayer money.

Michigan’s Attorney General Schuette called Stein’s effort a “frivolous, expensive recount request.”

But the fact is that most costs will be paid through private donations made specifically to fund the recount endeavor.

Ms. Stein quickly raked in nearly $7 million via an online fundraising campaign devised to underwrite the recounts, which can get pricey.

“We deserve to have confidence in our vote,” Ms. Stein told CNN. “We’re not here to help one candidate or hurt the other.”

Recount supporters were also able to point to Mr. Trump’s false assertion that “millions of people” voted illegally as evidence that narrow vote margins deserve a second look.


  • Trump 2,279,543
  • Clinton 2,268,839
  • Difference – 10,704

Michigan is the closest race in question, with just over 10,000 votes separating Clinton and Trump.

However – laws in the Wolverine State only trigger an automatic recount, paid by taxpayers, if that gap is less than 2,000 votes.

Now that a district judge has approved a statewide recount, it must be done by hand since Michigan exclusively uses paper ballots.

Sorting through more than 4.5 million ballots prior to the official – and final – Electoral College vote on December 19 will require manpower and extended hours.

“The cost of a recount is $125 per precinct. There are 6,300 precincts across the state, meaning a statewide recount would cost $787,500,” reports CBS News.

Due to the accelerated timetable, CBS notes, “State election officials have suggested the real cost of the recount could be higher – more like $900,000 – but that additional cost would be the responsibility of the counties, not Stein’s.”

If the state had not delayed the process through legal maneuvers, it’s arguable that the additional need for overtime pay would not mount so high.


  • Trump 1,403,694
  • Clinton 1,380,823
  • Difference – 22,871

The Wisconsin recount is already well underway, contending with fewer votes and technological constraints.

On top of that, Mr. Trump’s winning margin is double that of Michigan.

The Wisconsin effort is also far less laborious since it’s a not being done completely by hand.

Instead, its 72 counties will “determine whether ballots will be counted by hand or using tabulating equipment, consistent with existing state law,” reports Vox.

Wisconsin state law requires that “the petitioner shall pay a fee equal to the actual cost of performing the recount in each ward.”

Given the streamlined process and state regulations, Wisconsin will likely put a smaller dent in the Stein recount budget.


The Keystone State is really behind the eight ball, given the late date and continued legal wranglings.

Initially, three voters in each precinct (of which there are hundreds) seeking a recount were required to sign a recount petition and pay a $150 fee.

A state court ruled that if Stein wanted a statewide recount, taxpayers would be on the hook for a $1 million bond.

Ms. Stein deemed that “outrageous” and scrapped her state court petition, eventually filing a motion in federal court Monday to begin a statewide recount.

If successful, nearly six million votes would need to be re-examined in warp speed – and at a hefty sum.Follow Chance Seales on Twitter: @ChanceSeales

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Top Stories

More Top Stories

Latest Videos

More Local

Don't Miss