By Susan Heavey
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Wisconsin’s election board agreed on Friday to conduct a statewide recount of votes cast in the presidential race, as requested by a Green Party candidate seeking similar reviews in two other states where Donald Trump scored narrow wins.
The recount process, including an examination by hand of the nearly 3 million ballots tabulated in Wisconsin, is expected to begin late next week after Green Party candidate Jill Stein’s campaign has paid the required fee, the Elections Commission said.
The state faces a Dec. 13 federal deadline to complete the recount, which may require canvassers in Wisconsin’s 72 counties to work evenings and weekends to finish the job in time, according to the commission.
The recount fee has yet to be determined, the agency said in a statement on its website. Stein said in a Facebook message on Friday that the sum was expected to run to about $1.1 million.
She said she has raised at least $5 million from donors since launching her drive on Wednesday for recounts in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania – three battleground states where Republican Trump edged out Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton by relatively thin margins.
Stein has said her goal is to raise $7 million to cover all fees and legal costs.
Her effort may have given a ray of hope to dispirited Clinton supporters, but the chance of overturning the overall result of the Nov. 8 election is considered very slim, even if all three states go along with the recount.
The Green Party candidate, who garnered little more than 1 percent of the nationwide popular vote herself, said on Friday that she was seeking to verify the integrity of the U.S. voting system, not to undo Trump’s victory.
While there was no evidence of tampering or voting errors in the election, only a thorough review of results from the three states at issue will reassure Americans, Stein said.
“This was a hack-riddled election,” she told CNN, pointing to various cyber-attacks on political organizations and individual email accounts before Election Day and media reports citing concerns raised by computer security specialists.
Experts urged extra scrutiny of the three states, Stein said, because their voting systems were seen as vulnerable. They also cited “unexplained high numbers of undervotes,” the close finish between the two nominees and “discrepancies between pre-election polling and the official result,” she said.
According to Stein, the Wisconsin commission confirmed receipt of her recount petition at 3:45 p.m. local time, just over an hour before the deadline for filing. The filing deadline is Monday in Pennsylvania and Wednesday in Michigan.
The Wisconsin board said Stein was joined in her petition by another third-party candidate, Rocky Roque De La Fuente.
Although Trump won narrowly in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, the margins make it highly unlikely any recounts would end up giving Clinton a win in all three states, which would be needed for the overall election result to change. Trump beat Clinton in Pennsylvania by 70,010 votes, in Michigan by 10,704 votes and in Wisconsin by 27,257 votes.
The presidential race is decided by the Electoral College, based on a tally of wins from the state-by-state contests, rather than by the popular national vote. The Electoral College results are expected to be finalized on Dec. 19.
Trump surpassed the 270 electoral votes needed to win, although Clinton will have won the national popular vote by more than 2 million ballots once final tallies are in.
A representative for Trump’s transition team on Thursday had no comment on Stein’s effort, and Clinton has not commented on Stein’s effort.
(Additional reporting by Gina Cherelus, Brendan O’Brien and Frank McGurty in New York and Eric Walsh in Washington; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)