By Brendan O’Brien
MILWAUKEE (Reuters) – Local officials in Wisconsin will decide for themselves how to carry out a presidential election recount after a state judge on Tuesday rejected a lawsuit by former Green Party candidate Jill Stein to have the ballots counted by hand.
A recount of Wisconsin’s three million votes is set to begin on Thursday after Stein’s campaign requested the audit and paid the state’s $3.5-million filing fee, state election officials say.
Dane County Circuit Judge Valerie Bailey-Rihn ruled that Wisconsin’s 72 county clerks will not be required to count ballots by hand as Stein requested in a lawsuit filed on Monday, Attorney General Brad Schimel said in a statement.
Bailey-Rihn said Stein’s lawsuit, backed by the campaign of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, fell short of Wisconsin’s legal standard to ban use of ballot machines in a recount and failed to show enough evidence of fraud or other issues, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said.
“I follow the law. That’s who I am, despite my personal opinions,” said Bailey-Rihn, the Journal reported. “It’s (the counties’) decision. It’s their discretion. I may disagree with it … but I must follow the law.”
The ruling will not deter Stein’s efforts, a lawyer for her campaign recount effort said, referring to the hand counting of ballots as the “gold standard.”
“We are calling on all counties to respect the will of Americans across the country and across the political spectrum, and follow the recommendation of the judge, and conduct a hand recount to ensure the accuracy, security, and integrity of this election,” Matthew Brinckerhoff said in a statement.
Stein has also sought a recount in Pennsylvania on Monday, just hours before the state’s deadline, and her campaign said she would file a similar request in Michigan by its deadline on Wednesday.
“Election integrity experts have independently identified Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin as states where ‘statistical anomalies’ raised concerns,” her campaign said on its website, seeking donations to pay for recount filing fees.
Donald Trump’s stunning victory in the presidential contest has unleashed talk of recounts, with the Republican president-elect contributing a surprise twist.
On Sunday, Trump tweeted that “serious voter fraud” occurred in California, New Hampshire, and Virginia, states that Clinton won.
All three states rejected Trump’s claim, and the White House on Monday said there had been no evidence of widespread election fraud in the presidential contest.
(This version of the story corrects the number of votes in paragraph 2)
(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)