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How Donald Trump Could Steal This Election - The Wisconsin Scenario

Protect Our Election was founded during the first half of 2020, as signs emerged that this election would present an unprecedented slate of challenges – including attempts from the incumbent president to undermine it.

Those signs are now blindingly red lights flashing at every turn. The intent to interfere with Americans’ ability to vote and destroy our civic confidence in democracy could not be more obvious.

Now, we want to do something concrete to combat this perversion of America. Rather than simply amplify the warning signs, Protect Our Election is digging in to identify specific scenarios that could happen – and that we can work to prevent. Democracy cannot afford to wait until November 4 to defend itself.

Here’s what we’ll call the Wisconsin Scenario.

First, here’s a refresher on our watch-list of states with either a Republican Secretary of State running the show, or a Republican entity in position to challenge legitimate electoral results before certification. There are 15 such states:

And here is the latest electoral map from

Every single one of those remaining swing states is on our list. Florida, Georgia, Ohio, and Nebraska all have a Republican Secretary of State (and, in fact, the Republican trifecta of SoS-Governor-Legislature). Arizona has a Democratic Secretary of State, but a Republican Governor and state legislature. North Carolina has a Democratic Secretary of State and Governor, but a Republican legislature and a history of state officers overreaching to impact election results.

If these states slide to Trump in November – whether through legitimate results or readily apparent voter suppression schemes – we’d be looking at this final map:

This is not an outlandish map. It would lead to an Electoral College result of Biden, 279 - Trump, 259. Ahh, but let's look at Wisconsin and its ten deliciously vital Electoral Votes.

Wisconsin experienced memorable difficulties and partisan warfare during the presidential primary in April. Wisconsin has a Democratic Secretary of State and Governor, but an extremely active Republican-led state legislature. The Wisconsin Elections Commission is a six-member commission split equally between the parties. And the formal process for certifying initial vote counts is as follows:

At least 3 inspectors, including the chief inspector and, unless election officials are appointed under s. 7.30 (4) (c) without regard to party affiliation, at least one inspector representing each political party, but not including any inspector appointed under s. 7.30 (1) (b), shall then certify to the correctness of the statement and tally sheets and sign their names. All other election officials assisting with the tally shall also certify to the correctness of the tally sheets.

It is difficult to ascertain what exactly happens if one of the “inspectors” refuses to sign off on the tally sheet on Election Night. Wisconsin state statute does lay out what would happen next, in the instance of a recount:

Under state law, the G.A.B. is required to rely on the certifications of the county Boards of Canvassers in making its certification of the final results. If either of the campaigns has unresolved issues with how individual county Boards of Canvassers handled the recounting of certain ballots, their exclusive remedy under state law is through an appeal to the circuit court. In its certification of election results, the Board Chairperson certifies that the attached tabular statement, as compiled from the certified returns made to the Government Accountability Board by the several counties of the State, contains a correct abstract of the total number of votes given for the election. It also determines and certifies the names of candidates who have received the greatest number of votes, and are duly elected. A certificate of election may not be issued by the Board’s Director until the deadline for any appeal has passed.

Okay, still with us? State circuit courts would handle appeals at the county level in WI. Let's look at the pivot counties in Wisconsin (and the circuit court districts in which they fall):

Digging even deeper, any appeal over how the results were handled in a closely contested Wisconsin county would wind up in front of the Chief Judge of the 7th Circuit. Maybe the 2nd, 4th, or 5th. Chief Judge Robert VanDeHey, Chief Judge Jason A. Rossell, Chief Judge Barbara H. Key, Chief Judge Thomas Vale... come on down.

But there’s more: the legal process in Wisconsin to challenge ballots or make a case for a recount is a two-step process that involves these Circuit Courts, but also includes the option to appeal decisions to the Wisconsin Appeals Court – and there is a 30 day filing deadline, which means a campaign looking to create chaos could challenge the initial vote count, take their argument to the Circuit Court, and then wait 30 days to file an appeal of that decision, if it went against them.

This could easily push the resolution of Wisconsin past the Electoral College reporting date of December 14.

And if Wisconsin somehow flips based on a nakedly partisan recount where votes are tossed, here's the map:

269-269. Chaos. Mass hysteria. Cats and dogs, most decidedly not living together. The presidential election would get thrown to the House of Representatives, where all manner of hell could break loose.

That – all of the above – is why we’re doing this.

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