After the utter debacle on November 20, which saw the first day of counting held up by Trump campaign lawyers for more than 6 hours after counting was scheduled to begin, Day Two started with more clarity and the framework for a streamlined process.
The problem of Trump observers clustering around tables and intimidating poll workers was eased as a single person limit was enforced on November 21. Each counting table had three observation spots, one for a Trump observer, one for a Biden observer, and one for a non-affiliated observer like the ACLU.
Even if a third spot was open, the Trump campaign was repeatedly warned that they could not have two observers at one table. Even so, it was reported that Trump representatives continued to violate the rule, as some observers for Trump appeared to be posing as independents.
The loophole in the process was that lawyers could counsel observers, but not offer objections directly themselves. In several cases, especially around the Ward 5 table, an unidentified lawyer representing the Trump campaign’s interests refused to abide by the rules. His interference eventually required commissioners from the canvassing board to directly mediate on the spot. Along with Ward 1, Trump campaign surrogates categorically objected to every single vote cast in the election district.
In the City of Milwaukee, Ward 5 and 1 are located west of 76th street to 91st Street, and from Calumet Road north to County Line Road. The area has a lot of commercial development, particularly south of Northridge Mall. However, it has a high density of low income housing.
Other observers voiced their concerns that Milwaukee’s northwest side was being systematically targeted because of its Black population. The legitimate concern was evident when one Tump observer jumped between tables for inner-city wards and indiscriminately objected to ballots.
Trump campaign attorneys made a motion insisting that the entire count process for Milwaukee County be stopped immediately, shortly after the process was finally underway. They presented an unsupported claim that hundreds of thousands of envelops had not been set aside after objections were made.
Commissioners noted that it would have been physically impossible at that point to have processed so many ballot envelops. The Board rejected the demand in a 2-1 vote.
The tactics of Day Two appeared to be a continuation of the Trump campaign’s efforts to stall and disrupt the recount process. Milwaukee County Clerk George L. Christenson said that after two days the recount was already behind schedule, in part due to the constant disruption by Trump observers. He also informed Trump representatives that it was “not our job to train their observers on what they’re observing. They clearly don’t know what they’re doing and so they keep asking questions. And we’ve said to the Trump campaign, you need to tell your people what you’re looking for here because they’re objecting to every ballot.”
Another example of the strategy occurred in Cudahy’s count process, where an entire group of wards was halted. A Trump campaign observer complained that ballots were placed in too many piles. That statement came after Trump lawyers argued for two days to have ballots set aside into such piles.
The never ending stream of challenges, including some as outlandish an absentee ballot cast by a hospitalized voter, have overwhelmed the board’s ability to deliberate and move the process forward. It quickly created a procedural bottleneck that could see the count process needlessly stretch well past Thanksgiving Day.
Commission chair Tim Posnanski said that he believed the actions were “prima facie evidence of bad faith by the Trump campaign.”
With Trump observers objecting to every ballot without cause, the recount effort remains at a standstill. More of the same illicit behavior was expected for Day Three on November 22.
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