MILWAUKEE – “Recount,” just like “recall,” in politically torn Wisconsin, has become a loaded word.
That’s unfortunate, according to constitutional law expert Rick Esenberg. Recounts are a necessary mechanism of democracy, for those who sincerely believe the results of an election are in question.
But Esenberg said sincerity does not apply to the curious case of Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein and her request for a recount of the presidential election in Wisconsin.
“Jill Stein tried to make an ideological point to fan the flames to raise money,” Esenberg, president of the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty told Watchdog.org’s M.D. Kittle Wednesday on the Vicki McKenna Show, on NewsTalk 1130 WISN. “It has nothing to do with the integrity of the electoral process or making sure that our vote counting is accurate. When you abuse the process like that and you use it for something other than what it was intended to be used for, then you taint it some way.”
Last week, Stein and fellow third party candidate Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente filed separate requests with the Wisconsin Elections Commission seeking a recount of the Wisconsin vote. That statewide recount began Thursday as municipal clerks hurry to complete it before the Dec. 13 deadline.
Failing to do so could cost Wisconsin, which narrowly supported Republican President-elect Donald Trump, its 10 electoral votes.
Trump won Wisconsin with more than 22,000 votes. Stein raised the specter of election fraud in battleground states Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania – states Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton expected to win. The fraud proposition, that the “system is rigged,” was an idea widely rejected by the left when Trump suggested as much in the weeks leading up to the election.
Stein captured less than 1 percent of the vote in Wisconsin, but under state law she has the right to call for a recount provided she pays the associated costs.
On Tuesday, the Green Party candidate paid the required $3,499,689 charged by the Wisconsin Election Commission to conduct the statewide recount. She has reportedly raised millions more in her campaign to review the vote, and issued another fundraising plea after she saw the projected cost of the recount. De La Fuente declined to continue with the recount request after he saw the bill.
Despite an admission that the election results would not be overturned by the recount, the Clinton campaign is participating and even joined with the Green Party in a lawsuit in Dane County to try to force a hand recount of all of the ballots cast for president in Wisconsin. On Tuesday Dane County Circuit Judge Valerie Bailey-Rihn refused to require a hand recount when the Stein campaign could not provide evidence of election machine tampering.
Wisconsin voters – and election officials – definitely have been democratically tested over the past six years.
In 2011, the Democratic Party and unions teamed up in a campaign to recall several Republican senators who voted for public employee collective bargaining reforms known as Act 10. That same year, liberal Supreme Court candidate JoAnne Kloppenberg and her supporters pushed an unsuccessful statewide recount of ballots in her election against then-Justice David Prosser. In 2012, liberals tried to push Gov. Scott Walker and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, both Republicans, out of office through unsuccessful recall campaigns. All of that on top of the usual spate of presidential, U.S. Senate, Supreme Court, gubernatorial and state legislative elections.
In 2012, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, called for reforms to Wisconsin’s recall law.
“Even the exit polling shows 60 percent of people thought that recalls should only be for some sort of malfeasance in office,” Vos said at the time.
Some Republicans are now talking about cleaning up the state’s recount statutes.
Esenberg said that Wisconsin voters will discriminate against Stein’s self-motivated recount requests from legitimate recount petitions in the future.
“I think that in this state people are smart enough to realize this for what it is,” Esenberg said. “And I think that we’ll continue to understand that recounts are important.”
“But really shame on Jill Stein and shame on the Clinton campaign in particular,” Esenberg said. “I don’t blame them for showing up at the recount, but to get in there and fight for a hand recount, shame on them. They ought not to have done it.”
Esenberg and his organization are questioning the legality of even holding the recount.
“Our law says you have to say you believe that there has been a mistake or fraud in the counting of the vote or some other irregularity,” Esenberg said. “If you read Stein’s document, she doesn’t say that she believes that there ‘was,’ she believes that ‘there could be.’ Because after all, ‘there are smart people out there who could hack things and cover up their tracks. And who’s to say they couldn’t have done it here?'”
Still, the left-led recount marches on.
“I think that the most important thing now is that it happens expeditiously so that we don’t run the risk of missing the deadline of having our electoral votes certified,” Esenberg said. “I think that the judge’s decision (Tuesday) went a long way to accomplishing that by denying the statewide hand count.”
This article originally appeared at Watchdog.org.
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