On Thursday, Wisconsin is set to begin the labor-intensive task of reviewing nearly three million ballots in a recount across all of the state’s 72 counties. Michigan is likely to follow suit starting on Friday. And in Pennsylvania, there are persisting legal challenges to the presidential results as well.
It is extremely unlikely that this attempt — spearheaded by Jill Stein, the Green Party presidential candidate — will prompt any of these states to flip to Mrs. Clinton, as Mr. Trump leads by a combined margin of around 100,000 votes. Mrs. Clinton would need to be declared the winner in all three states to reverse the Electoral College outcome.
The podcast that makes sense of the most delirious stretch of the 2016 campaign.
In addition to Ms. Stein’s concerns about vote tampering or hacking, Mr. Trump has levied a baseless claim that he would have won the popular vote had it not been for millions of illegal voters.
Nevertheless, the multistate endeavor is slated to begin Thursday. Despite the attention it will receive, it figures to be a far cry from the drama that gripped the nation during the Florida recount in 2000.
Here are some key questions and answers about how it might play out:
Why are the recounts such a long shot?
While Mr. Trump’s lead in each of the three states is narrow — he is ahead by 22,177 votes in Wisconsin, 70,638 in Pennsylvania and 10,704 in Michigan — the margins seem too large for Mrs. Clinton to overcome. A campaign lawyer for Mrs. Clinton, Marc Elias, noted that those gaps would exceed “the largest margin ever overcome in a recount.”
Experts believe it would require the discovery of widespread tampering or hacking of voting systems to move such a large number of votes, and there is no evidence that either has occurred.
What are the possible outcomes, and who decides?
It is possible the recounts will result in a change in the totals, but it is highly unlikely that enough votes will move to displace Mr. Trump. The states are operating under a tight schedule, as they need to certify their results several days before the Electoral College meets on Dec. 19. If the recounts reveal significant disparities, they could be contested in court.
How will the recount work in Wisconsin?
County clerks and canvass workers were set to be briefed on Wednesday about recount procedures, a detailed process that includes either a review of votes by hand or the retabulating of ballots.
The Stein campaign went to court to demand a full statewide hand recount, which was rejected, so local elections officials will be able to decide how to review votes. The updated tallies must be submitted to the state elections commission by Dec. 12, with certification the next day.
Is it the same in Michigan?
The process is similar in Michigan. Ms. Stein officially requested the recount on Wednesday, setting in motion the process to begin Friday. In Michigan, another candidate — such as Mr. Trump — could object to the recount by appealing to the Board of State Canvassers. Michigan Republicans have blasted the recount talk, given that there is no evidence of fraud or malfeasance.
Like Wisconsin, Michigan would have less than two weeks to certify the results of its recount.
Why does Pennsylvania seem to be lagging behind?
Ms. Stein is also seeking another look at ballots in Pennsylvania, which allows voters to petition their local precincts for recounts. But the Pennsylvania State Department has said many of the deadlines to file petitions have passed.
Who is paying for all of this?
Recounts are expensive because of the staffing needed, and the condensed time frame that will require work on nights and weekends. Ms. Stein’s campaign created a website to raise money for the cause. As of Wednesday afternoon, she had raised $6.6 million. Originally, the fund-raising goal to cover the costs in the three states was $7 million, but it was increased to $9.5 million after cost estimates in Wisconsin were $2.5 million above earlier projections.
Ms. Stein’s campaign paid the state of Michigan $973,250 on Wednesday, but Ruth Johnson, Michigan’s secretary of state, said taxpayers could end up footing up to $4 million in additional costs.
Ms. Stein has said the money raised for the recount is kept separate from her campaign accounts, and that any surplus funds would be used for “election integrity efforts and to promote voting system reform.”
Why is Ms. Stein the champion of the recount effort?
Ms. Stein finished a distant fourth in the popular vote on Nov. 8, but with her recount challenge she has taken on a more prominent role in the election’s aftermath. She says she is pushing for a more “transparent and accountable vote.”
What role, if any, is Mrs. Clinton playing?
The Clinton campaign has taken a more passive approach. It has said it would join in the recount pushed by Ms. Stein and pay for its lawyers to be present at recount sites, but it is not contributing money for the recounts.
When the Stein campaign sued for the hand recount in Wisconsin, lawyers for Mrs. Clinton intervened, seeking to join the suit. But her campaign has been largely quiet, aside from a lawyer explaining in a post online that they would “participate” in a way to encourage fairness.
How is Mr. Trump involved?
A spokesman for Mr. Trump, Jason Miller, said this week that the campaign would “continue to do our due diligence and monitor the situation, but again, there’s no chance that anything changes after this fraudulent recount effort has concluded,” noting that Mrs. Clinton had conceded.
As for Mr. Trump himself, he has gone on Twitter to raise his own concerns about the vote, but has called the recount efforts a “scam” by the Green Party and also chastised the Clinton campaign for joining. “Nothing will change,” he said.