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Federal judge refuses to halt Wisconsin recount

Jill Stein, the presidential Green Party candidate, arrives for a news conference in front of Trump Tower, Monday in New York. Stein is spearheading recount efforts in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. (Mark Lennihan / Associated Press)
By Todd Richmond Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. – A federal judge refused to halt Wisconsin’s presidential recount Friday, telling President-elect Donald Trump’s supporters that the effort probably won’t change anything anyway.

Trump defeated Hillary Clinton by more than 22,000 votes in the state. Wisconsin election officials reported Friday afternoon that nearly 89 percent of the ballots cast for president have been counted. Clinton had gained just 49 votes.

“The relief you’re asking for is so clearly unwarranted,” U.S. District Judge James Peterson said during a 20-minute hearing Friday morning, when the results showed Clinton had gained 61 votes with 82 percent of ballots counted. “The recount looks like it’s going smoothly and competently. It’s not going to have any impact on whether the electoral college meets or who takes office.”

Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, who finished a distant fourth in Wisconsin, 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 – to stop the process.

Peterson said Friday that the Wisconsin recount has so far revealed no irregularities.

Stein also requested recounts in Michigan and Pennsylvania – states that Trump narrowly won. A federal judge halted the recount in Michigan this week.

A federal judge in Pennsylvania was holding a hearing Friday afternoon to consider whether that recount can even begin.

Meanwhile, in Nevada, Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske declared a recount finished. The recount of ballots from five Nevada counties turned up 15 erroneous votes between Clinton and Trump and no change in the results of the election.

In Wisconsin, the PACs’ lawsuit contended the state was violating the U.S Supreme Court’s 2000 Bush v. Gore ruling because the state lacks uniform standards to determine which votes should be recounted.

Peterson would have none of it. He said the Bush v. Gore case doesn’t apply in Wisconsin’s recount. He said final decisions are often appealed but that doesn’t mean they’re not final.

“You’re just trying to clip Stein’s wings as to any future appeals when she hasn’t taken any action,” Peterson said. He said he would decide in a few days whether to dismiss the lawsuit completely.

The PACs’ attorney, Michael Morley, said he would consult with his clients on whether to appeal.

Separately Friday, two Michigan Supreme Court members who made Trump’s list of possible U.S. Supreme Court nominees removed themselves from consideration of an appeal by Stein to restart the recount in that state.

The removals by Chief Justice Robert Young and Justice Joan Larsen came two days after a federal judge halted the recount in Michigan that began Monday. The federal judge tied his decision to a state court ruling that found Stein had no legal standing.

Stein’s Michigan appeal has only a remote chance of success. Three of the five remaining justices were GOP-nominated in their elections. Those five members haven’t yet decided whether to take the case.