What recounts in key swing states may mean for the election

Fletcher Smith, Reporter

With election results still coming in, President Donald Trump has already claimed that voter fraud is causing him to lose key swing states, and has already requested a recount in one of them.

On Nov. 4, the day after the election, the Trump campaign announced that it would request a recount in the swing state of Wisconsin, a state that President-elect Joe Biden won by a margin of roughly 20,000 votes.

Later that day, Trump prematurely claimed victory in the key swing states of North Carolina, Georgia, and Pennsylvania on Twitter, when he was still ahead of Biden. Now, with more mail-in and absentee votes being counted, Biden has pulled ahead of Trump in Georgia by a margin of 0.2%, and has won Pennsylvania by over 30,000 votes.

With Trump already announcing a recount request in Wisconsin, and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announcing that a recount will occur in Georgia, it is possible that, with such close margins in states that are very important to the results of the election, more recounts will either be requested or automatically occur. Here is how that process works in some key swing states:


Michigan (16 electoral college votes):

In Michigan, an automatic recount occurs when there is a 2,000 vote margin between candidates. With Biden having a roughly 140,000 vote lead with 99% of the votes in, an automatic recount will not happen. However, a candidate can request a recount by petitioning that fraud had occurred, and that they had a reasonable chance of winning that state.

Trump has already claimed voter fraud in several states, so a claim from him here would not be surprising. However, with Biden having a 2.7 point lead, it would be difficult for the Trump campaign to claim that they had a reasonable chance of winning in Michigan. A recount will most likely not occur here.


North Carolina (15 electoral college votes):

In North Carolina, a recount can be requested if the two candidates are separated by a margin of less than or equal to 10,000 votes or 0.5% of votes, whichever is less.

Trump has a 1.4 point lead in North Carolina, which sounds like a fairly comfortable lead, but with 1% of the votes still needing to be counted, there is still a small chance Biden may overtake Trump’s lead. In that case, Trump requesting a recount would be extremely likely.


Pennsylvania (20 electoral college votes):

In Pennsylvania, an automatic recount occurs when there is a 0.5 point difference between the two candidates. A recount can also occur in individual counties if three voters from that county request it. However, the voters that requested the recount must fund it.

Although Trump had a substantial lead of over 600,000 votes in Pennsylvania when he declared victory in the state, Biden has since won it, but only by a margin of around 0.5 points, meaning it’s likely that an automatic recount will happen in Pennsylvania.


With two of the three states above expected to recount their votes, as well as Wisconsin and Georgia already planning for a recount, 61 electoral votes will technically still be in the air until a recount is concluded. However, the chances of a candidate overtaking an opponent through a recount in any state is extremely unlikely.

From 2000 to 2015, 4,687 statewide general elections were held. Out of those elections, only 27 had a recount. Out of those 27, only three changed the outcome of the election. None of those changed outcomes were for a presidential election.

Even if the results do change in one of the states, the results of the election will unlikely change. With Biden ahead in Nevada and Georgia and Trump ahead in Alaska and North Carolina, Biden is projected to win 306-232. If the results were to change in the two swing states with the most electoral votes, Pennsylvania and Georgia, through recounts, Biden’s lead would decrease to 270-268, which would still not be enough to give Trump the electoral college. Because of this, Joe Biden will almost certainly be inaugurated as president on Jan. 20.