Donald Trump has shared a false graph appearing to show Joe Biden receiving a "dump" of votes in Wisconsin that pushed the Democratic candidate into the lead, as his campaign forks out US$3 million ($4.3m) for a recount.
"Look at this in Wisconsin!" Trump wrote on Twitter. "A day AFTER the election, Biden receives a dump of 143,379 votes at 3.42am, when they learned he was losing badly. This is unbelievable!"
The graph was originally shared by San Diego-based data expert Justin Hart, who said the information was based on New York Times' log of changes to its presidential vote tallies – believed to be sourced from voting machine company Dominion.
"Check out the wild ride in Wisconsin where Donald Trump is leading by 51 per cent all night until a dump at 3.42am," Hart wrote, adding, "Now there could be a good reason for this … but transparency is not a thing ANYONE is very good at right now in this thing. It certainly stands out."
Local journalists slammed the claim as false.
"This was not a 'dump' of votes, it was when election officials completed their counting of absentee ballots," Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter Molly Beck wrote.
Her colleague Mary Spicuzza added, "Officials in Milwaukee County had repeatedly said they would be counting absentee ballots for hours. Many of us … stayed up all night watching the process."
The Wisconsin Elections Commission had already pushed back on similar claims, saying last week that "minor news media errors in reporting Wisconsin's unofficial results do not affect the outcome of the election" and insisting "absentee ballots were counted properly, regardless of when the results were reported".
The President lost to Biden by 20,608 votes in the key swing state, 1,610,065 to 1,630,673 – a 0.7 per cent margin.
It came as the Trump campaign on Wednesday forked out US$3m ($4.3m) to formally request a recount in Wisconsin's two largest counties, Milwaukee and Dane, citing "illegally altered absentee ballots, illegally issued absentee ballots, and illegal advice given by government officials allowing Wisconsin's Voter ID laws to be circumvented".
"The Wisconsin Elections Commission directed Wisconsin municipal clerks to illegally alter incomplete absentee ballots contrary to Wisconsin law," the campaign said in a statement.
"Clerks were instructed that they could rely on their own 'personal knowledge', or unspecified 'lists or databases at his or her disposal' to add in missing information on returned absentee ballots. Under Wisconsin law, incomplete absentee ballots may not be counted."
The campaign also alleges that officials "issued absentee ballots to voters without requiring an application, in direct conflict with Wisconsin's absentee voting safeguards".
"Wisconsin law expressly requires that absentee ballots may not be issued without receiving a written application requesting the ballot," the statement said.
"Despite this clear mandatory requirement, clerks uniformly issued absentee ballots without collecting a written application from persons who requested absentee ballots in person during the two-week in-person absentee voting period that ran from October 20, 2020 through November 1, 2020."
Fox News reports, however, that guidance from the Wisconsin Elections Commission says clerks can fix missing address information on absentee ballot envelopes if they have reliable information.
The guidance was passed unanimously by the commission in 2016 and has been used for 11 elections without objection.
Election officials across the US have repeatedly stressed the elections were secure and fair. Studies show incidents of voter fraud are incredibly rare.
However, the Trump campaign further alleges that Wisconsin officials "illegally advised voters to illegally mischaracterise that they were indefinitely confined".
"Those claiming to be 'indefinitely confined' rose from 72,000 in 2019 to more than 240,000 at the time of the November 3, 2020 election," the statement said.
"A substantial number of those claiming that status were sent and then returned ballots without proper identification and without otherwise meeting the requirements for that status."
Wisconsin officials have previously said there were no irregularities or widespread problems reported.
"We understand the eyes of the world will be on these Wisconsin counties over the next few weeks," Meagan Wolfe, the state's chief election official, said in a statement acknowledging receipt of the recount petition.
"We remain committed to providing information about the process and assisting our county clerks by providing facts on the mechanics of a recount and status updates."
The statement noted that the Wisconsin Elections Commission would hold a "special meeting" to discuss details of the recount "and to review supplements to the Recount Manual in light of public health guidance".
The Trump campaign characterised the meeting as an attempt to "change the rules" at the last minute as part of a long-term strategy the President of attempting to paint the election as "rigged" - without any evidence.
"BREAKING: WI Elections Commission, after seeing President Trump's recount petition and objections, is trying to change the recount manual at an emergency meeting tonight at 6pm to make objections harder to make," Wisconsin Republican Party chairman Andrew Hitt said on Twitter. "This must be stopped."
Trump team lawyer Jenna Ellis wrote, "Typical for Democrats … they broke the rules, so now they're trying to change the rules. They're running scared now."
Nate Evans, Biden's Wisconsin communications director, said the campaign remained confident of the result.
"The official canvass results reaffirmed Joe Biden's clear and resounding win in Wisconsin after Wisconsin voters turned out to cast their ballots in record numbers," he said in a statement.
"A cherrypicked and selective recounting of Milwaukee and Dane County will not change these results. Election officials worked extremely hard under unprecedented circumstances to ensure all votes were counted quickly and accurately, and the recount demanded and paid for by the Trump campaign will once again confirm Joe Biden's victory."
It comes as the Trump campaign continues to attempt to overturn election results in key states including Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan, Arizona and Nevada, through a combination of legal challenges and requests for recounts and audits.
The President has refused to concede to Biden, making sweeping allegations of voter fraud and claiming the election was "rigged".
Time is running out for him to make his case. The electoral college is due to meet in each state on December 14 and formally vote on the winner.