Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Trump’s calls for ballot recount undermine election integrity, threaten democracy

Following Biden’s narrow win in Wisconsin, Trump’s vote recall casts shadow of doubt on US voting system
Shane Fruchterman
Badger Herald archival photo of students voting. Nov. 3, 2024.

Following President-elect Joe Biden’s narrow win in Wisconsin — a crucial state for President Donald Trump’s victory four years ago — Trump and his fellow Republicans have called for a ballot recount.

According to Wisconsin law, a trailing candidate is allowed to call for a recount only when the race is within one percentage point. The margin required is 40 votes in a race with fewer than 4,000 votes or one percentage point in a race with more than 4,000 votes.

In the past, statewide recounts have historically been known to change the vote tally. But, after the Associated Press called the race for Biden in Wisconsin, it was clear Biden’s lead was so great that there was no way Trump could catch up. Even so, Trump’s calls for a Wisconsin ballot recount would only prove detrimental to him and further cement Biden’s win.


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Still, calling for a recount not only in Wisconsin, but in many other vital swing states, has never been about changing the vote totals. The Republican Party and Trump’s claims about voter fraud, along with their lawsuits, have never been about winning the election. Instead, it is part of the Republicans’ agenda in questioning both the legitimacy of Biden’s presidency and any election in which the opposing party wins.

Concerning Wisconsin vote counts, Trump’s campaign manager, Bill Stepien, claimed there were “reports of irregularities in several counties” as a result of a printing error on 13,500 ballots.

Wisconsin’s top elections official Meagan Wolfe did not address Trump’s campaign manager directly following his statement but did defend the state’s election system, referring to the 2016 election as an example where a recount showed no widespread problems with results.

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“I believe that would be the case if we had a recount again in our state,” Wolfe said to the AP.  “You would find that we have a really solid system here.”

When Trump labels a vote tally as fraud, as he has concluded is the case in Wisconsin, he undermines the soundness of the U.S. voting system.  Such a claim plants a seed of doubt in the minds of many Americans who may wonder how secure elections really are. This is deeply dangerous to a democracy, in which a country’s governing power is rooted in the consent of the governed. Trump’s refusal to admit to defeat following Nov. 7 threatens our democracy and political institutions.

University of Southern California law professor Franita Tolson addressed Trump’s claims.

“Part of democracy is accepting the legitimacy of the election,” Tolson said in an article from The Guardian. “We know that because we put so much stock in concession speeches. Not that concessions have any legal impact, it’s because they signal the peaceful transfer of power. It signals to the rest of the world that you can lose an election here and no one loses their head.”

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Election polls found only six in 10 Republican voters believe in Biden’s win. One survey even found that a majority of Republicans didn’t believe the election was “free and fair,” despite there being no evidence whatsoever proving this. Director of legal strategies at civil rights think tank Demos, Chiraag Bains, addressed this.

“The dishonest fraud claims persist because some people benefit from them,” Bains said to The Guardian. “The right-wing echo chamber, they want us to be talking about voter fraud, they want us to have this conversation, even though it’s incredibly rare. It will persist because it’s a powerful justification for these measures that suppress the vote.”

Trump’s refusal to acknowledge and accept his defeat will make Biden’s governance extremely difficult come Inauguration Day. If voters believe the president was not legitimately elected, this becomes a justification to oppose everything he does. While Trump’s lawsuits may fade away, with judges across the country quickly dismissing them, the questions surrounding the integrity and soundness of U.S. elections will continue to linger.

Kayla Bell ([email protected]) is a sophomore majoring in political science.

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