The prevailing reaction to JoAnne Kloppenburg’s decision to seek a recount in her loss to David Prosser in Wisconsin’s judicial election this month has been disbelief. Count the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s editorial board among those whose jaws hit the floor yesterday afternoon. In a restrained yet biting editorial, the state’s leading newspaper calls the recount “unnecessary,” damaging to the state, and a waste of money:
The state Government Accountability Board says it is ready for a recount; the board had anticipated that one would be requested. But it is already requesting some $40,000 extra to deal with a possible 16 recall elections anticipated as a result of some senators leaving the state to avoid a vote on Gov. Scott Walker’s collective bargaining proposals and other senators voting for them.
Earlier, the GAB said a statewide recount in the Supreme Court race might cost as much as $1 million. Given that the state is already scrambling in its current budget to make ends meet and that the next budget won’t be any prettier, this is an expense the state can ill afford.
Furthermore, the editors continue, the impetus for Kloppenburg’s decision rests on the error in Waukesha County that kept one city’s votes from being included in the unofficial results. While appreciating the understandable frustration of the change that correcting the error made to the race, the JSO notes that the official count and recanvass was correct. And if that is the issue, then why, they wonder, does Kloppenburg not limit her challenge to just Waukesha County?
The answer to that is rather obvious. This recount request isn’t based on an Election Night oversight on an unofficial count. Kloppenburg’s decision to challenge the entire state’s count tacitly admits that the final official count from Waukesha is valid. She needs to make up 7313 votes, and she can’t do that in Waukesha alone. It’s not about righting an error, but about delegitimizing the results and overturning an election. And I doubt it will stop at the recount.
Take a look at this chart from Politico, via Instapundit, to understand the stakes involved in setting the scope of the recount. Even statewide recounts have produced at most only a 1200-vote difference in modern history, one-sixth of what would have to change in Wisconsin. There isn’t a “slim” chance a recount will change the outcome; there is no chance of it.
Certainly, I am satisfied with the outcome in Wisconsin, but that’s not the only reason I say this. In Minnesota, we had an automatic recount in our gubernatorial race last November when Tom Emmer lost to Mark Dayton by almost the exact same percentage as Kloppenburg lost in Wisconsin. In that election as well, we had a massive miscount in Hennepin County, but unlike Wisconsin, state law required the recount. Emmer had the option of taking explicit action to damage the election’s legitimacy by pursuing an election challenge; he decided against it despite calls from some in the party to fight to the political death. Not only was the margin too large to overcome at slightly over 9,000 votes in a race where 2.1 million votes were cast, but the cost and damage to the state after the Franken-Coleman challenge made such a decision unthinkable for Emmer. And Emmer made the right decision, not only for himself and for reality, but for Minnesota as well.
Kloppenburg obviously has a different concept of public service. It shows the wisdom of Wisconsin voters that they chose her opponent.