Votes for Mickey Mouse Larger Than Trump’s Margin of Victory in Wisconsin

Lulu Friesdat
Dec 14, 2016 · 6 min read

Today is the deadline for the 2016 presidential recounts requested by Jill Stein to be finished — in order for the states to be confident that they can control how their electoral votes are cast when the Electoral College meets on December 19th. It is known as the “Safe Harbor” date, because as long as the states have made a “final determination” by that date, their decision will stand. Daniel P Tokaji explains the details and downside of this deadline here.

Despite the fact that close examination of the vote in the states where recounts were requested revealed profound questions about the accuracy of the count, the vulnerability of the equipment to tampering, and the fairness of the process — the safe harbor requirements have been met primarily by either not doing recounts; (in Pennsylvania and Michigan) or by doing machine counting in most of the large counties in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin: In both the original & recount totals, votes for candidates like Mickey Mouse (called “scattering”) were greater than Trump’s margin of victory. Graph by Phil Evans.

Even the limited hand counting that took place in Wisconsin revealed additional votes for almost every candidate. Trump received an extra 844 votes, Clinton an extra 713 (totals circled in red,) and write-in candidate Evan McMullin picked up an additional 1,857 votes (total circled in blue.) This indicates that the optical scan machines are not counting every vote, and that in particular write-in votes were not accurately tabulated originally.

There were two other points of interest in Wisconsin. The original results that were reported were found to be missing 440 votes in Oneida County. Karen McKim of Wisconsin Election Integrity caught this mistake and alerted the Wisconsin Elections Commission.

But the strangest aspect of the results is in a category called “Scattering.” Scattering is the word that the Commission gives to votes for entities like Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse, Brett Favre or Batman. Both before and after the recount, the “scattering” votes were greater than Trump’s margin of victory. This means that people who actually bothered to cast a vote were so displeased by the options available that they cast a protest vote — and those votes for fictitious characters and people who weren’t running, were larger than the margin of victory. This is a testament to how dissatisfied the public is with our elections process. [Adding an additional comment here: Richard Hayes Phillips, who has been on the ground looking at votes in the recount emailed me to say most of the scattering votes are “thoughtful votes for serious candidates … quite commonly Bernie Sanders, John Kasich, or Paul Ryan.” However the Wisconsin Elections Commission said that they are not under obligation to count votes of anyone who is not a registered write-in candidate, and it is good for people to be aware that those votes are not being counted as cast — but instead lumped in with the “Mickey Mouse” votes. Here is an article about the policies regarding write-in candidates in Wisconsin. ]

After the recount “Scattering” was reduced three thousand votes to 22,764, but this category is still 16 votes greater than Trump’s margin of victory, which after the recount is 22,748 (totals circled in pink.)

I filmed the recount in Wisconsin, primarily in Brown County, as well as interviewing volunteers, election reform activists, and one of the lawyers from the Stein campaign. Please tune in to the three part video series I’m producing assessing the accuracy, security, transparency, fairness and cost of the Wisconsin recount. The series is running on

The first part can be viewed here:

As the other pieces come online you will find them listed here.

The next piece will feature an interview with Liz Whitlock, a volunteer observer in the Racine County Wisconsin recount. Liz was stunned at how many votes were being discarded or not counted accurately in the recount.

On Thursday I will be on Redacted Tonight with Lee Camp (5:30 pm EST on RT and 6pm EST on YouTube.) I’ll discuss the problems that were experienced in both the recount and the primaries, as well as the enormous political will that needs to be focused on this issue to bring about real change.

Citizens who care about #HonestElections need to make election reform their number one political priority. We must undertake a concentrated, long-term effort if we want to achieve meaningful reform of our voting process. We cannot experience effective government when our elections are not accurate, transparent or secure.


In Michigan, the two judges on Trump’s Supreme Court nominee list recused themselves, but the remaining judges voted to shut down the recount along partisan lines 3–2. Jan BenDor of Michigan Election Reform Alliance says this ruling is in contradiction of Michigan Election Law. MERA will have a press conference to discuss it’s findings next Monday December 19th at 3pm. It will be livestreamed on the Michigan Election Reform Alliance Facebook Page.

In a phone interview, BenDor discussed the details that the recount brought to light including 75,000 undervotes in a state that Trump won by less than 11,000 votes. She says that volunteer observers reported that many of those undervotes were in mail-in ballots and on examination they turned out to be completely blank ballots. People do not go to the trouble of mailing in blank ballots, so the presence of so many blank mail-in ballots raises the possibility that ballots with votes have been replaced by blank ballots. Volunteers she spoke with were estimating these blank ballots at 2–6 in each precinct. There are 490 precincts in Detroit alone — so if that was the case across the board, that could be a discrepancy of up to 3000 votes in just one city.

The AP is reporting that an investigation has been ordered, regarding other irregularities.

“Michigan’s elections bureau ordered an investigation Monday into substantial ballot discrepancies in a small portion of Detroit’s voting precincts, after the discovery of a polling place where 300 people voted but only 50 ballots were properly sealed in a container.”

On Medium, Nick Sharp described his frustration personally observing the Michigan recount.


In Pennsylvania a judge also prevented the recount from proceeding. Judge Paul S. Diamond wrote in his December 12th memorandum,

“Plaintiffs have not shown that the extraordinary relief they seek — a hand recount of a sample of paper ballots in optical-scan Counties and a forensic examination of six Counties’ election management systems — will redress their alleged injuries. Dr. Stein received less than 1% of the vote in Pennsylvania and does not allege that the recount and forensic examination will yield the votes necessary for her to prevail in Pennsylvania’s election.”

The larger issue of the vulnerability of the electronic voting machines in Pennsylvania, something that Professor J. Alex Halderman of the University of Michigan testified to, was not addressed. Diamond wrote, “The petition … did not include any allegation that hacking had actually occurred.”

I host a conference call every Sunday from 3–4pm EST to share information and work toward long-term solutions on election issues. Anyone who wants to work cooperatively on this issue is welcome to join the call: (712) 451–0293 Access Code 568325.

Lulu Friesdat is an Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist and documentary filmmaker. She received a Best Documentary award for her first feature-length documentary (producer/director) Holler Back [not] Voting in an American Town, a film that explores systemic issues in our elections that discourage voter participation. Clips are available for viewing here. Her network news experience includes editing assignments for CBS Evening News, Nightline, Sunday Morning, The Today Show, and Good Morning America. She produced and edited profiles of Democratic candidates for MSNBC, and has done long-format documentary work with NBC News and CNBC. She was on the editing team of Gideon’s Army, an Emmy-nominated documentary that follows the personal stories of public defenders in the Deep South. Gideon’s Army received the U.S. Documentary Editing Award at the Sundance Film Festival and the Ridenhour Prize, fostering the spirit of courage and truth. Other film credits include Are We Not Men — The DEVO documentary, Joe Papp in 5 Acts (PBS/American Masters) and Slamnation by five-time Emmy winner Paul Devlin. Follow her on twitter @LuluFriesdat.

Lulu Friesdat

Written by

Emmy award-winning journalist. Documentary Filmmaker | Editor. Team member Sundance award-winning film #GideonsArmy. #HonestElections