UPDATE: Gov. Scott Walker has conceded to Democratic candidate Tony Evers, per reporting from Madison.com, ending any possibility of a recount in Wisconsin. Original article appears below.
For most of the night, incumbent Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, and his Democratic opponent Tony Evers switched back and forth with the lead in their head-to-head race for the Wisconsin gubernatorial contest. By 11:00 p.m. CST, with the race being within 1,000-2,000 votes (or closer at some points of said hour), it was clear to many that the race was too close to call.
Then, reports came out from various journalists that election officials in Milwaukee County had not yet counted more than 46,000 absentee ballots from the City of Milwaukee, according to reporting from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. As the contest continued to switch between Walker leading and Evers being ahead, officials in that county tabulated those uncounted ballots.
Milwaukee County is overwhelmingly Democratic, and the City of Milwaukee itself is even more so. It was no surprise, then, that when those ballots were counted, the totals showed a strong showing for the challenger, Evers.
Indeed, as Journal Sentinel reporter Daniel Bice announced in a tweet just before 1:00 a.m. on Wednesday morning, Evers’ lead in Milwaukee County and the state grew by a significant amount.
“Of the 46,000 outstanding [Milwaukee] ballots, Evers took 38,674 and Walker 7,181,” Bice wrote.
As of this reporting, with 99 percent of the precincts in Wisconsin calculated, Evers had 49.6 percent of the total vote in Wisconsin, a plurality. Walker received 48.4 percent, according to reporting from the New York Times.
right now unofficial AP numbers showing the WI Gov margin outside the 1 pt recount threshold pic.twitter.com/hXPgyMWx7e— Craig Gilbert (@WisVoter) November 7, 2018
Walker’s Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch told supporters on Wednesday morning that a recount was inevitable, telling them, “The fight is not over.”
That may or may not be true, depending on the final outcome of the election. If the margin separating Walker and Evers is greater than 1 percent of the total vote count, then recount rules in Wisconsin would prevent Walker from being able to initiate another count of the ballots cast in the state.
The situation is a sort of dark irony for Walker: he, along with a Republican legislature, rewrote the recount rules in 2016, in response to Green Party candidate for president Jill Stein’s failed attempts to prevent then-candidate Donald Trump from officially winning the state of Wisconsin’s Electoral College votes, becoming the first Republican presidential candidate to win the state since 1984. Stein agreed to raise and pay for the fees to conduct the recount herself, totaling $3.5 million, according to additional reporting from the Journal Sentinel.
Under the old rules of the recount from that time, any candidate who was able to pay for the process themselves could request one. Changes to the rules, signed into law by Walker less than a year ago, no longer allow a recount under any circumstances for elections with more than 4,000 voters unless the difference between the top two contenders is 1 percent or smaller.
WisconsinVote.org reports, at this time, with 99.5 percent of precincts in, that Walker’s margin behind Evers is 1.1 percent. If those numbers hold, Walker will have lost the election, as well as the ability to contest its results in the coming days.