Trump campaign files lawsuit in Wisconsin after requested recount

President Trump’s re-election campaign filed on Tuesday, Dec. 1 a lawsuit to the Wisconsin Supreme Court following the campaign's requested recount to "uncover fraud and abuse that irrefutably altered the outcome of this election," a news release said.

The president's campaign is seeking to disqualify hundreds of thousands of ballots in a longshot attempt to overturn Democrat Joe Biden's win in the battleground state he lost by nearly 20,700 votes.

Trump filed the day after Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and the chairwoman of the Wisconsin Elections Commission certified Biden as the winner of the state's 10 Electoral College votes. Trump asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court, controlled 4-3 by conservatives, to take the case directly, rather than have it start in a lower court.

Jim Troupis, counsel to the Trump campaign, issued this statement:

"The people of Wisconsin deserve election processes with uniform enforcement of the law, plain and simple. During the recount in Dane and Milwaukee counties, we know with absolute certainty illegal ballots have unduly influenced the state's election results. Wisconsin cannot allow the over three million legal ballots to be eroded by even a single illegal ballot. We will continue fighting on behalf of the American people to defend their right to a free and fair election by helping to restore integrity and transparency in our elections."

A Biden campaign spokesperson issued this statement: 

"As with the Trump campaign’s other legal efforts around the country, this lawsuit is completely baseless and not rooted in facts on the ground. The truth is clear: Joe Biden decisively won Wisconsin by more than 20,000 votes, and yesterday the Governor certified that result. The hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites targeted by this lawsuit did nothing wrong.  They simply followed longstanding guidance from elections officials issued under the law. These arguments to disenfranchise large groups of Wisconsin voters were resoundingly rejected by the Dane and Milwaukee County Boards of Canvassers during the recount process, frequently on a bipartisan basis. Joe Biden’s victory has been repeatedly reaffirmed in Wisconsin, and this groundless lawsuit will not change that reality."

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) issued this response:

"The massive increase in absentee voting, combined with lax enforcement of state election law in some counties, has many Wisconsin voters questioning the legitimacy of the presidential election result.  This is very unfortunate.  The only way to restore confidence is to fully investigate credible allegations of wrongdoing and to be completely transparent.  I hope the legal process will provide a careful examination of the complaints and adherence to the law as written, and confidence that the final election result is correct."

Meanwhile, the state's highest court also is considering whether to hear two other lawsuits filed by conservatives seeking to invalidate ballots cast during the presidential election.

Trump repeats many of the claims he made without evidence during a recount of votes in Milwaukee and Dane counties that large swaths of absentee votes were illegally cast. Local officials rejected his claims during the recount, and Trump is challenging procedures that have been in place for years and never been found to be illegal.

Evers and Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul did not immediately return messages seeking comment on Trump’s lawsuit.

“The people of Wisconsin deserve election processes with uniform enforcement of the law, plain and simple," Trump's Wisconsin attorney, Jim Troupis, said in a statement. “During the recount in Dane and Milwaukee counties, we know with absolute certainty illegal ballots have unduly influenced the state’s election results.”

Similar Trump campaign lawsuits have failed in other battleground states.

In Phoenix, a judge has scheduled a Thursday trial in Arizona GOP Chairwoman Kelli Ward’s lawsuit that seeks to annul Biden’s victory in the state. A judge is letting Ward’s lawyers and experts compare the signatures on 100 mail-in ballot envelopes with signatures on file to determine whether there were any irregularities. Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs’ office, which certified Arizona’s election results on Monday, said there was no factual basis for conducting such a review.

Trump is running out of time to have his legal cases heard. The Electoral College is scheduled to meet on Dec. 14 and Congress is to count the votes on Jan. 6.

Trump's Wisconsin lawsuit seeks to have ballots discarded where election clerks filled in missing address information on the certification envelope where the ballot is inserted. The state elections commission told clerks before the election that they could fill in missing information on the absentee ballot envelopes, a practice that has been in place for at least the past 11 elections.

Trump also challenged any absentee ballot where a voter declared themselves to be “indefinitely confined” under the law, a designation that increased from about 57,000 in 2016 to nearly 216,000 this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Such a declaration exempts voters from having to show photo identification to cast a ballot. The Wisconsin Supreme Court in March ruled that it is up to individual voters to determine whether they are indefinitely confined.

Trump also wants to discard any absentee ballot where there was not a written application on file and all absentee ballots cast in person during the two weeks before Election Day.

People who vote in person early fill out a certification envelope in which they place their ballot and which serves as the written record. But the vast majority of absentee requests these days are made online, with a voter’s name entered into an electronic log with no paper record.

The Trump campaign said his lawsuit would disqualify 221,000 votes in Dane and Milwaukee counties.

Trump also challenges events held in Madison parks where election workers accepted completed absentee ballots from voters looking to avoid crowds and mail delays.

Associated Press contributed to this report.