By Matthew DeFour
Wisconsin's historic presidential recount ended Monday resulting in a net gain of 131 votes for President-elect Donald Trump over Democrat Hillary Clinton, the Wisconsin Elections Commission said.
Trump added 844 votes to his total for the Nov. 8 election, while Clinton added 713.
Overall, the commission said, voters cast 2.976 million ballots. The recount resulted in a net increase of 837 ballots.
"Completing this recount was a challenge, but the real winners are the voters," Elections Commission Chairman Mark Thomsen said in a statement after signing off on the statewide results. "Based on the recount, they can have confidence that Wisconsin's election results accurately reflect the will of the people, regardless of whether they are counted by hand or by machine."
The last statewide recount, in a 2011 Supreme Court race, resulted in a net change of 312 votes for the top two candidates out of 1.5 million ballots cast.
The commission originally advised county clerks to complete their recount process by 8 p.m. Monday so it could certify the results on Tuesday, the last day federal law guarantees a state's electoral votes will reflect the popular vote when the Electoral College convenes on Dec. 19.
On Monday, the boards of canvassers in the final four counties -- Dane, Milwaukee, Outagamie and Rock -- certified their results. Dane County was the last to complete ballot-counting, on Saturday night.
The recount of nearly 3 million votes began Dec. 1 after Green Party candidate Jill Stein paid the estimated $3.5 million cost.
The actual cost won't be known until counties report their costs by Dec. 30. Stein will be responsible for paying any amount over the original estimate and will be refunded if the cost is less.
Last week, a federal judge rejected a lawsuit by Trump supporters seeking to halt the recount.
Stein's campaign has said the goal of the recount was to affirm the validity of the election amid concerns about foreign powers trying to influence the outcome of the election.
Gov. Scott Walker expressed appreciation for the work done by the state's 72 county clerks and hundreds of full-time, part-time and temporary employees.
"They've shown all throughout this process that it was very clear that the vote was legitimate here in the state," Walker said.
Elections commissioner Don Millis on Monday criticized Stein's decision to seek a recount as "an abuse of the system."
He said he doubted the commission would take a position on making changes to the state's recount law, as Walker and some Republicans in the Legislature have advocated.
Thomsen disagreed that Stein's decision was an abuse.
He said it amounted to an audit of the state's entire election system at no cost to taxpayers. Typically the state spends $30,000 to audit election machines in 100 randomly selected municipalities.
Thomsen also said there was no evidence that any of the voting systems that were used to tabulate the votes on election night were hacked or tampered with.
"I'm personally very happy it was done," Thomsen said. "Because not only Wisconsin but the world knows that our system has integrity."
(c)2016 The Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, Wis.)