President-elect Joe Biden is on track to win states that total more than 300 electoral votes, already has a popular vote margin of more than five million and counting, and has leads of more than 10,000 votes in Georgia, Arizona, Nevada, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. With a legal “strategy” that’s falling flat, the Trump campaign now claims that recounts will change the outcome of this election. Like most of their post-election claims, this is completely without merit. The truth is that recounts almost never actually change the results of an election — especially when candidates have leads as big as President-elect Biden’s — and they barely even change the margins. The Trump campaign is only prolonging the inevitable. President-elect Biden received the most votes and won this election.
It is “exceedingly rare” for recounts to change the outcome of elections and it requires “very narrow margins of victory.”
- FairVote Report: “Recounts which change the outcome of an election are exceedingly rare and require very narrow margins of victory.”
- Election Law Professor: “History shows that it’s very, very hard to overturn a statewide result that’s above a thousand votes in a recount scenario.”
- No statewide recount had changed the results of any election in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, or Arizona for at least two decades.
Statewide recounts over the past 20 years typically changed the end margins of elections by at most several hundred votes — far lower than the 10,000+ vote lead Biden has right now in critical states.
- On average, statewide recounts have shifted the winning margin by about 430 votes.
- A 2004 Georgia judicial recount changed the end margin by only 15 votes.
- In Pennsylvania, a 2009 judicial recount changed the end margin by only 281 votes.
- A 2010 Arizona ballot initiative recount changed the end margin by only 66 votes.
- In Wisconsin, a Supreme Court election recount changed the final margin by only 312 votes.
In recent recounts that changed the outcome, the shift in vote margin was fewer than 1,000 votes.
- In a 2004 Washington gubernatorial race, the two candidates were separated by less than 300 votes, with the recount changing the end margin by about 400 votes.
- In a 2008 Minnesota Senate race, the two candidates were separated by less than 300 votes, with the recount changing the end margin by around 500 votes.
The only two presidential recounts in the 21st century barely budged the margins, and neither changed the ultimate result.
- Florida’s infamous 2000 recount only moved the margin by about 1,247 votes, which is 1/10 as large as the smallest Biden battleground state margin.
- Former Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker: “After recount in 2011 race for WI Supreme Court, there was a swing of 300 votes. After recount in 2016 Presidential race in WI, @realDonaldTrump numbers went up by 131. As I said, 20,000 is a high hurdle.”
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