MILWAUKEE (AP) – Wisconsin Recount Observer Ardis Cerny craned her neck as far as she could towards a plexiglass divider separating her from two vote counters, looking at them eagle as they scanned the ballots one by one.
When a tabulator told the staunch supporter of President Donald Trump that she was too leaning over a yellow line on the floor of a Milwaukee conference hall meant to keep observers 3 feet away, Cerny bristled.
“I know you don’t want us to see the ballots,” she said. “You think we’ll find something.
Cerny is one of a large contingent of pro-Trump observers participating in a recount that the president requested and paid for $ 3 million in the state’s two largest and most liberal counties, Milwaukee and Dane, in a long-term attempt to wipe out more than Democrat Joe Biden. 20,000 votes in advance after the initial count.
In the absence of precedent to erase such a large margin, it is widely expected that Trump the contingent plan in Wisconsin is litigation on thousands of missing ballots he maintains that they were poorly molded.
But that doesn’t mean his recount watchers aren’t trying.
The atmosphere inside the convention hall where the Milwaukee County story takes place has become acrimonious and chaotic at times. Lawyers for the Trump and Biden camps are constantly walking the floor surveying the hundreds of tables in an area the size of several football fields.
“We’re chasing our tails here,” Milwaukee County Electoral Officer Julietta Henry told a three-member committee overseeing the recount on Saturday, referring to the wave of challenges launched by Trump officials . She said they sometimes resulted in confusing instructions to tabulators.
Commissioners have sometimes approached to recompose the tables themselves to investigate alleged rule violations. When too many people gathered around a table on Friday, violating social distancing rules, Republican commission member Rick Baas suddenly shouted, “I got it! Clear this floor now!
On another occasion, he berated some observers for their disruptive character and called on them to behave with courtesy: “We will not be like … other states.”
At least some ignored this call.
A Trump observer was escorted from the building by sheriff’s deputies on Saturday after pushing an election official who had lifted his coat from an observer chair. Another was pulled on Friday for not wearing a face mask properly, as coronavirus infection rates soared in the state.
“You have to step back and sit down,” an election official, surrounded by lawmakers, told another Trump watcher. “If you don’t, you will be escorted.” After arguing for a while, the observer sat down.
County electoral commissioners – two Democrats and one Republican – were in near-perpetual session to tackle a flood of challenges from Trump that County Secretary George Christenson said were slowing the recount and delaying the process. On Saturday, election officials accused Trump’s representatives of flouting the rules to obstruct and delay the recount, noting that some of their observers objected to every poll at a particular table. Challenges have been raised over mail ballots that have been folded – a necessary step for voters to put them in envelopes.
Another Trump challenge was to disqualify mail-in ballots submitted in envelopes with official stickers that had come off.
“Some of the things we get ourselves into are ridiculous,” said Tim Posnanski, the chairman of the committee, increasingly exasperated on Saturday.
When a Trump representative sounded dismissive of the advice Milwaukee County corporation attorney Margaret Daun offered to commissioners, she warned him, “Please don’t talk to me. , sir.
While the recount itself is almost certainly not going to change the outcome, Trump’s campaign seems intent on logging as many challenges as possible so that it can eventually have a judge cast entire categories of ballots. Trump lost to Biden in Milwaukee County, the most populous county in the state with a large black population, over 2 to 1. At the center of the conflict are tens of thousands of mail-order votes.
By law, the recount must be completed by December 1. But on Saturday night, few of Milwaukee’s hundreds of tabulators had managed to count the votes, the county clerk said. They had spent most of the two days since the process began on Friday sorting the ballots, including mailing envelopes and applications.
Joe Voiland, speaking to committee members on Saturday on behalf of the Trump campaign, denied his side was acting in bad faith.
“I want to get to the point of putting everything together… and not yelling at each other,” Voiland said.
Election officials urged reporters not to speak to tabulators or observers while they were working. But Cerny has been cited to commissioners by name as an example of supporters posing as independents to circumvent rules limiting observers to one per table in each campaign. She got up, gave her name and asked to speak to the commissioners, but was told she couldn’t.
She wore a name tag on her blouse that identified her as an “independent observer,” but when a reporter asked her if she was there to support Trump, she didn’t hesitate. “Yes,” she said. She declined to comment further.
A Biden watcher sitting next to Cerny earlier told him to lean back from the yellow line meant to separate observers from tabulators, then softened his tone.
“We want every vote to count,” she told Cerny, “like you do.”
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