Posted by Haley Smith on December 13, 2016
Nearly two weeks after it started, Wisconsin’s presidential recount is complete. The recount, which was requested by Green Party presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein and independent candidate Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente ahead of Wisconsin’s November 25th filing deadline, yielded a small vote gain (131 votes of the nearly 2.8 million cast) for president-elect Donald Trump. Recounts of presidential ballots were also requested by De La Fuente and Stein in Michigan and Pennsylvania, but federal judges halted both processes.
A statewide recount is also currently taking place in Maine for its ballot initiative legalizing recreational marijuana, which passed initially with 50.3% of the vote (or a margin of little over 4,000 votes). With 16% of the recount complete, the “Yes on 1” camp reports the results have barely budged.
In statewide recounts small changes between the initial and recounted totals are to be expected--however recounts rarely change the winner. Examining over two-dozen statewide recounts that have taken place since 2000, FairVote has shown that the average change in the margin of victory of the winner before and after the recount is 277 votes, or roughly 0.02% of the original vote total.
There have only been 15 consequential recounts, or recounts in which the margin of victory was less than 0.15% of the original vote total, since 2000. These recounts are consequential because the vote tallies were close enough that the recount might reasonably be expected to change the winner. The average change in the vote margins in consequential recounts is 324 votes, or 0.007% of the original vote total. Only 3 statewide recounts have overturned original election results since 2000-and all of them within consequential margins.
While a close race, the margin in the Wisconsin presidential race was 0.812% in the initial tally, which means that the recount was out of the consequential range and that the likelihood of the recount changing the result was exponentially small. Indeed the recounted results saw Trump’s margin increase, but by less than 150 votes, representing 0.005% of the original vote total. While not complete, we would expect similar results in the Maine recount. The original margin for the “Yes” campaign was 0.54% (or 4,073 votes), also putting it well outside the “consequential recount range” and making the chance of a change in outcome extremely improbable.