As a presidential election recount in three key states now appears likely to happen, the electoral college votes from at least one of those states and possibly all three could be in jeopardy — creating a situation that hasn’t been seen in 192 years and which could throw the election of the 45th president into the House of Representatives.
Green Party Presidential Candidate Jill Stein — who is spearheading the election recount campaign — met the Friday deadline for filing a recount request in Wisconsin, and the state’s election board said that Wisconsin “is preparing to move forward with a statewide recount of votes.”
But there is a second deadline, and if state fails to meet it, Wisconsin could lose all 10 of its electoral votes, which were set to go to Republican Donald Trump. The deadline for certifying those votes would be December 13, and according to a report on Friday in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel newspaper, that could be a big problem.
The last time Wisconsin held a recount in a statewide election came in a 2011 state Supreme Court contest and took more than month to complete. But that election saw only 1.5 million ballots cast.
The statewide recount in the presidential election would require a recount of nearly twice as many ballots — about 3 million — and the process would become even more cumbersome if Stein is successful in requiring a recount by hand, as she has said she prefers.
If the proposed Wisconsin recount is not completed on time, the state’s 10 Electoral College votes could be rendered void. In that scenario, Trump would be left with 296 electoral votes, which is still 26 more than the 270 needed to win the presidency.
But two other states, Michigan and Pennsylvania, where Stein plans to demand a recount could cause even more severe turmoil.
The election recount news out of Wisconsin comes shortly after another of those three states — all of which finished in extremely close races favoring Trump — has finally reached a decision as to the winner of its electoral votes. Michigan, which will cast 16 votes in the Electoral College, finally on Wednesday named Trump the winner over Democrat Hillary Clinton in the state, 15 days after the 2016 presidential election on November 8.
But in an interesting twist likely to bolster calls for a Michigan recount, Trump won the state with about 2,400 votes fewer than had previously been counted.
According to the Detroit Free Press, Trump held a 13,107-vote lead in Michigan by the latest count prior to Wednesday. But on that day, November 23, the state posted final, certified results from all 83 Michigan counties. Those official results shaved away 2,403 Trump votes, leaving him with a slim 10,704 vote margin over Clinton — out of 4,790,329 total votes cast in the state. Trump has now won Michigan and its 16 electoral votes — unless a recount were to prove otherwise — by just two-tenths of a percentage point.
Trump’s Michigan victory, even as narrow as it was, came as a shock because pre-election polling showed Clinton well ahead, leading by six points in the Huffington Post Pollster.com average of all polls there.
In addition to Michigan, Clinton also held comfortable pre-election polling leads of five points in Pennsylvania and six in Wisconsin. But Trump also won both of those states by mere fractions of a percentage point.
The closeness of the races and their contradictions of the polls, combined with persistent rumors of possible election computer hacking or other forms of vote tampering prompted Stein to launch a fundraising effort to finance a recount in the three states.
Watch an NBC News panel discuss the Stein recount effort on Friday, in the video below.
The deadlines for filing a recount request in both states arrive next week. But the December 13 deadline for finishing the recounts is set by federal law and would apply to both Michigan and Pennsylvania as well.
If none of the states are able to certify their vote counts in time for the deadline, which comes six days before the December 19 Electoral College vote, Trump could lose a total of 46 electoral votes, leaving him with 260 — 10 short of the required 270.
Electors from those states could meet on December 19 regardless, to cast their votes. But in that case, the legitimacy of those votes would likely face legal challenges, before Congress officially counts and finalizes the votes on January 6.
Clinton remains at 232, so if the three states all miss the recount deadline, no candidate would possess the required majority and the election would be thrown to the House of Representatives to decide, with each state delegation receiving one collective vote. The last time that happened was 1824, when the House picked John Quincy Adams over Andrew Jackson, even though Jackson won the popular vote.
Of course, if the recounts were completed in time and all three states went to Clinton after all, she would end up with 278 electoral votes and Clinton, not Trump, would become the 45th President of the United States. But neither Clinton nor anyone from her campaign has made any public comment on the recount effort.
[Featured Image by Isaac Brekken/Getty Images]