Breaking: Federal judge declines to end WI recount

Two pro-Trump groups hoped to get a federal judge to end Wisconsin’s recount early, but Judge James Peterson put an end to those hopes rather quickly. The Associated Press had barely even reported the challenge when Peterson declined to intervene. The issue will become moot soon enough anyway:

A federal judge will on Friday consider halting Wisconsin’s presidential recount.

President-elect Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton by more than 22,000 votes in the state. Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein requested the recount to determine if election machines were hacked.

Two pro-Trump groups, the Great America PAC and the Stop Hillary PAC, filed a federal lawsuit Dec. 1, the day the recount began, seeking to stop the process. Judge James Peterson will hear arguments in Madison.

Not long after, Great America PAC lamented Peterson’s quick rejection in this press statement:

Today, U.S. District Court Judge James D. Peterson denied an injunction sought by Great America PAC, The Committee to Defend the President (formerly known as Stop Hillary PAC) and Ronald R. Johnson to end Green Party US candidate Jill Stein’s pointless recount in Wisconsin. In doing so, however, Judge Peterson interpreted the law to clearly prevent the inevitable frivolous appeal of the recount by Stein from disrupting the safe harbor for Wisconsin’s electoral votes for President Elect Donald Trump. Eric Beach, Co-Chairman of Great America PAC, stated, “Hopefully Miss Stein’s sham fundraising will end, and we can get about the business of making America great again,” Beach continued, “Stein has shown no compunction about endangering other’s right to vote and be counted to server her own financial benefit, and while the recount will continue, Stein will not be able to further endanger Wisconsin voters.”

We applaud and thank Wisconsin for doing a great job on the recount. They are on target to finish this recount on time and have shone a bright light on how pointless #CrookedJill’s flim-flam recount was in the first place; having resulted in almost no change to President-elect Donald Trump’s lead in the state, and hardly little gain by Democrat Hillary Clinton or Jill Stein, except for her checkbook.

Great America PAC, The Committee to Defend the President, and Mr. Johnson would like to express their thanks to the many recount workers who are being inconvenienced to focus on this pointless recount, and would also like to thank their supporters for making these lawsuits possible with their continued support.

Peterson got his appointment to the bench from Barack Obama, for what it’s worth, but don’t blame that for the decision. The suit raised equal-treatment concerns along with arguments from Bush v Gore about the risk to the safe-harbor deadline and disenfranchising all Wisconsin voters. The latter issue is a question for the state courts, as well as the state, which can certify electors at any time even with an active recount. The former is actually Stein’s argument for doing a statewide hand recount.

Two other facts almost certainly contributed to a quick end to the injunction request. If the judge was inclined to intervene, he would have scheduled this hearing before the state spent millions of dollars on eight-plus days of recounting. The recount is now almost entirely done; according to the Day 8 results posted yesterday on the state’s website, precincts that reported 77.64% of Election Night results have fully completed their recounts, and that does not include results from Day 9 or today. The net change in ballots overall as of the end of Day 8 is 1,221 ballots, or 0.0535% of the overall vote thus far. The net change in the 22,617-vote lead for Trump with more than 3/4s of the recount done is … 61 votes for Hillary Clinton.

Under those circumstances, any federal judge regardless of which president appointed them would let the recount continue in accordance with state court decisions. Wisconsin can certify their electors based on Election Night results if the recount threatens to still be ongoing by Tuesday’s safe-harbor deadline, but it looks like they’ll finish up tomorrow or Sunday at the latest anyway.

Meanwhile, Jill Stein’s campaign has appealed to the state Supreme Court to get that recount back underway — and won on a recusal demand today:

Two of Michigan’s Supreme Court justices — Robert Young and Joan Larsen — have recused themselves from considering a case involving the recount of nearly 4.8 million ballots cast for president in November.

The two are included on a list of potential appointees to the U.S. Supreme Court that president-elect Donald Trump revealed before the election. And while both said they were reluctant to recuse themselves from the case, they decided to so any decision the court might come to in the case couldn’t be open to appeal because they stayed on.

That leaves five justices on the court, but three of those are Republicans. The court has not decided to take up the case yet, nor is there any indication they will. The recusals from both Young and Larsen were made to limit the political drama surrounding the case, but Young wasn’t happy about the need to do so:

“As I have previously stated, anybody can make a list. In this regard, after serving as a jurist for 21 years, 18 on this court, I fully acknowledge that, at the age of 65, the probability of my being selected and appointed from the president-elect’s infamous list of United States Supreme Court potential appointees is extraordinarily remote,” he said. …

“Now more than ever, a bit of judicial restraint is required to resist the calls of political sirens who urge the courts to engage in politics by another name,” he said. “I do so in order that the decision made by my colleagues in this case will not be legitimately challenged by base speculation and groundless innuendo by the partisans in this controversy and beyond.”

There might be more at stake in Michigan, where the Supreme Court there could decide to take on the issue of “aggrieved” status to set precedent, but that still seems unlikely. They could do that simply by refusing to take up the appeal, endorsing the appellate court ruling on that issue. The most likely scenario is that Wisconsin finishes while Michigan and Pennsylvania don’t restart, but … any time these cases go to court, surprises happen. Stay tuned.