Chances are a recount won’t make a difference in a statewide election.
In the past 50 years, few recounts have led to changes in the winners. And in the handful of still-uncalled battleground states, there hasn’t been a flip following a recount in at least the last two decades.
The Trump campaign, which has initiated a legal blitz in swing states, has already announced that it will request a recount in Wisconsin, where President Donald Trump trails Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden by about 20,000 votes. Wisconsin law allows for a candidate to request a recount if the margin in the race is within 1 percent.
If that recount is at all similar to past Wisconsin recounts, the current vote deficit would be a mountain to overcome.
Wisconsin conducted a statewide recount in the 2016 presidential contest after Trump beat Hillary Clinton by more than 20,000 votes. The recount netted Trump 131 votes. After a state Supreme Court election in 2011 that was separated by about 7,300 votes, a recount changed the winning margin by just 312 votes.
Former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, tweeted Wednesday that 20,000 votes would be “a high hurdle,” but he said the president should press ahead.
“It will not be easy, but few things worth fighting for are,” he tweeted. “The President’s team should prepare for a recount after the canvas is done in Wisconsin.”
In Michigan, where Biden holds a roughly 150,000-vote lead, a recount is mandated when a race is separated by 2,000 votes or fewer. A candidate can request a recount if there is evidence of fraud or error.
In Arizona, recounts must be mandated by the state, as they aren’t permitted upon a candidate’s request. There are no mandated recounts In North Carolina, Nevada and Georgia, but candidates may ask for them. And in Pennsylvania, a recount is mandated if a race is within a certain margin, and a candidate may also request a recount.
In Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Nevada and Arizona — all states that NBC News says are too close to call — no statewide recount has led to a change in the winner for at least 20 years.
Since 2006, North Carolina has had three statewide judicial races go to recounts. Every time, the candidates entered the recounts with margins separating them by 3,000 to 6,000 votes. And every time, the margins were changed by no more than 667 votes and as few as 17 votes.
Statewide judicial races have gone to recounts in Georgia and Pennsylvania, as well. In 2004, a recount took place in a Georgia judicial race in which the two candidates were separated by fewer than 400 votes. The end margin changed by only 15 votes. Five years later, a Pennsylvania judicial race separated by about 83,000 votes went to a recount — and the final margin swung by just 281 votes.
And in 2010, Arizona had a ballot initiative to change the state constitution go to a recount. The original margin was just 128 votes. After the recount, it edged up to 194 votes.
Recounts that actually switched leaders have been few and far between. In 1974, the New Hampshire Senate race featured a recount after the two candidates were separated by just 355 votes. The recount eventually ended with the men agreeing to simply hold a new election.
More recently, the 2004 Washington governor’s race had the Republican candidate with a lead of more than 200 votes over the Democrat until a recount led to the Democrat’s winning by about 130 votes. And in 2008, the Minnesota Senate race went to a recount with Sen. Norm Coleman, a Republican, holding a more than 200-vote lead over the Democrat, Al Franken. Franken eventually won by just 312 votes.
On the presidential front, the most famous recount took place in Florida during the 2000 election. George W. Bush held a lead over Al Gore of fewer than 2,000 votes. After a statewide machine recount and partial subsequent hand recounts in some counties, the Supreme Court ordered an end to the process with Bush leading by 537 votes.