Jill Stein pays the $3.5-million tab to start the Wisconsin recount

Jill Stein's recount operation has ponied up $3.5 million to start the Wisconsin presidential election recount.  WISC-TV reports:

Stein faced a 4:30 p.m. deadline to deliver the money so a recount could start on Thursday. The Wisconsin Elections Commission says they got a wire transfer shortly before Tuesday's deadline.

The Los Angeles Times confirms that payment of the $3.5-million tab has set the recount in motion, and that Stein will be responsible for any additional costs incurred.  The article also notes that the "more populous counties will face a challenge in meeting the deadline to certify results."

The original Stein estimate of $1.1 million to cover the Wisconsin recount cost turned out to be just a bit short of the mark.  The Election Commission asked the county clerks to estimate the recount cost, which came to $3.5 million for a mix of hand counts and optical scanning.

The Stein campaign, in its zeal for a complete fishing expedition, is now suing to force a hand count, and Hillary Clinton is joining that suit:

Stein is suing the Wisconsin Elections Commission in Dane County Circuit Court, asking a judge to force county clerks to hand count every ballot instead of using machines. Former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has filed to join the lawsuit. The judge has scheduled a 4:30 p.m. Tuesday hearing.

The Chicago Tribune confirms that Wisconsin "Judge Valerie Bailey-Rihn began a hearing in the case Tuesday afternoon by allowing Clinton to join the action. She did not comment on her decision."

When Wisconsin state attorneys argued during the hearing that Stein had not justified a hand count, Stein's attorneys called on a computer scientist who said optical scanner machines that "most Wisconsin municipalities use to tabulate votes could be hacked with a screwdriver," but "he hadn't identified any attack on a Wisconsin machine." 

The outcome of that court hearing is not known as of this writing.

The Tribune also reports that "[e]lection officials said earlier Tuesday they had underestimated the cost and the recount may wind up costing closer to $3.9 million."

The total cost would appear to be subject to a further increase if the court orders a complete hand count.  While many of the counties list "Hand Count" as the tabulation method on the Commission worksheet, the list also includes notes in some cases for the added cost of a hand count over a machine count. 

Those notes would add another $270,000, and, in addition, several large counties, including Milwaukee County, do not show estimates for hand counts.  It would be reasonable, then, to infer that the total cost increase for all hand counts would be at least $0.5 million, for a total tab to Stein and her donors on the order of $4.4 million, exclusive of legal fees and other costs.

Dr. Stein called the $3.5-million tab paid to date "exorbitant."  But hey, it's other people's money:

Stein says the estimate Monday from Wisconsin election officials means she'll be asking her supporters to raise another $2.4 million. In a statement Tuesday, Stein says it's an "undue burden" but won't stop efforts for recounts in that state and in Michigan and Pennsylvania.

That's on top of the previous goal of $7 million, of which about $6.5 million had been raised to date.

The recount is now set to begin Thursday morning and be completed, barring further complications, by December 12, to be certified by the Election Commission at 3 P.M. on December 13, a few days before the presidential electors "formally cast the votes that will elect Trump as the next president" on December 19.

The Commission chairman said he doesn't expect to find more than 300 questionable ballots and remained dispassionate about the process:

If nothing else, this will give us audit.  We are not counting illegal people. We are not counting dead people's votes.

Meanwhile, the Pennsylvania recount is percolating in the background:

A hearing has been scheduled on a Green Party-backed request for a court-ordered recount of Pennsylvania's Nov. 8 presidential election, won by Republican Donald Trump.

The order for a Dec. 5 hearing came a day after the campaign of failed Green Party candidate Jill Stein filed the request.

The Stein forces have also tried to engineer a "voter-initiated" precinct-level recount for all of the roughly 9,000 Pennsylvania voting precincts, but there was just one detail that was overlooked:

Stein asked volunteers to print, complete and get notarized affidavits in an attempt to force an election recount in Pennsylvania. 

…While Stein said volunteers were needed to submit their documentation by Monday, [November 28] Wanda Murren, spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of State, has said the deadline for a voter-initiated recount was Nov. 21.

Pennsylvania rules require at least three volunteers from each precinct to submit affidavits, on the order of 27,000 volunteers for the whole state.  While it is a moot point since the deadline was a week ago, reporters asked local election officials about the number of inquiries regarding the affidavits.

The director of one county office said that "they've received a couple visitors and four or five phone calls."  Another county director said that "the only calls she's received about affidavits were from the media."  Stein's grassroots army appears to be nonexistent.

Based on the Wisconsin cost estimate being low by a factor of about four, it is likely that the original Stein cost estimates for Pennsylvania and for Michigan, for which the recount filing deadline is Wednesday, are also far too low.

Aside from attempting to delegitimize the Trump presidency before it begins, other factors behind the Stein recount operation have been suggested.

Charles Krauthammer says of Jill Stein: "This is the Ralph Nader of 2016 now cashing in on her sabotage – there's no other word – of the Clinton campaign."

The New York Post is characteristically direct on the Stein fundraising pitch: "She's also building a fine database of suckers for future fund appeals."

The New Yorker maintains its anti-Trump slant but observes of Hillary Clinton: "Ultimately, though, a failure to face up to the flaws in her campaign is leading to some dark places, full of the plotting of foreign agents."

Ron Fournier (@ron_fournier) tweeted on Monday morning: "Raising doubts about legitimacy of election, even w/out overturning result, is part of Clinton's plans to keep her options open for 2020." 

And Gregg Jarrett of Fox News asks whether Hillary Clinton squandered her "get out of jail free" card by signing on with the Stein recount campaign:

Clinton's election night concession seemed to have prompted Trump to hand her a "get out of jail free" card.  If she was moving on, then he was moving on.  And so would the nation. 

But in politics, what is given … can be taken away. Especially when the recipient of a generous gift exhibits a conspicuous lack of gratitude. Which is precisely what Clinton has now done.

… While Clinton may be a smart person, it makes no sense whatsoever for her to risk criminal indictment by alienating the one person who can best insulate her from the legal consequences of her own extremely careless, if not intentional, conduct. And for what? A recount that is destined to fail? 

Repercussions from the recount remain to be seen, but Sir Walter Scott's Marmion comes to mind:

Oh what a tangled web we weave,
When first we practise to deceive!