Wisconsin Supreme Court Recount – Day 1
posted at 1:40 pm on April 28, 2011 by Steve Eggleston
Before I get to the meat of the matter in the recount of Wisconsin’s Supreme Court election, I do feel the need to restate the record going into today, with a bit of help from the Government Accountability Board (GAB), Wisconsin’s state election authority, which offers a plethora of links, including unofficial recount results reported to it updated twice daily:
- Justice David Prosser entered the recount with a county-canvassed 7,316-vote lead over challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg. As the margin was just under 0.5 percentage points (0.4881), Kloppenburg was entitled to ask for, and indeed did ask for, a statewide recount paid for by the state and the counties that do the actual recount.
- In Wisconsin, a typical recount consists of a machine recount of ballots cast on an optical-scan machine using the same type of machine used in the election programmed to count just the race being recounted, and a hand recount of ballots cast on a Direct Recording Electronic machine and paper ballots that were not cast on an optical-scan machine. Because the Sequoia Optech III-P Eagle optical-scan machine used by muncipalities in at least parts of 31 counties, by far the most-popular optical-scan machine used in Wisconsin, must have a blank memory cartridge to allow for the reprogramming, the memory cartridges used in the April 5 election must be preserved as-is under state law until after the recount process was completed, and there are no longer enough spare memory cartridges to allow for the preservation of the April 5 election data, both campaigns asked for and received a court order for the hand counting of ballots cast on the Eagle optical-scan machines.
- The recount, which was ordered to begin today at 9 am, is supposed to be done by 5 pm 5/9/2011 by state law. Once the recount is done, either candidate will have 5 business days to file a judicial appeal, which will first be heard by a reserve (retired/defeated for re-election) judge appointed by Supreme Court Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, with any appeal going to the Madison-based 4th District Court of Appeals. If neither candidate appeals, the GAB, after a canvass of the results, will declare a winner.
With the background out of the way, on to the news of the day:
- The day didn’t begin in two counties – Chippewa (pre-recount totals had Kloppenburg leading 7,221-6,856) and Menominee (pre-recount totals had Kloppenburg leading 241-141). In Chippewa County, the canvassing board had just received spare memory cartridges so they could conduct machine recounts for their optically-scanned ballots, while in Menominee County, the canvassing board had not retrieved the election materials from the school board. Both are expected to begin tomorrow.
- As Ed Morrissey pointed out in a post on the main page, Waukesha County, where a retired judge has replaced County Clerk Kathy Nickoulas on the canvassing board, had a few problems. The first ballot bag from the Town of Brookfield (not to be confused with the City of Brookfield, whose results were not reported by Nickoulas to the media on election night but were reported during the county canvass) had a mismatched number on a ballot bag seal, while a “remade” absentee ballot (one of five redone because the voter used pen instead of pencil and thus the ballot could not be read by the machine) and the “R’s” from an alphabetized collection of absentee ballots applications (three total) from the town were missing. While the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story did not mention the fate of the missing “remade” ballot, they reported the missing applications were found at the town hall and brought to the recount site. Of note, neither campaign filed any objections today.
- Meanwhile, in Milwaukee County, the MacIver News Service had a video report of “anomalies” in the Milwaukee County recount:
- At the end of the day, the GAB reported all of the issues raised by both campaigns were addressed by the various county canvassing boards and posted the results that they had received.
Since those results aren’t quite as user-friendly as one would hope, I took the liberty of creating a spreadsheet that helps one determine how many votes changed in each reporting unit. With 8.94% of the reporting units in Wisconsin reporting, Prosser’s lead dropped by 129 to 7,187.
Revisions/extensions (10:35 pm Eastern, I think, 4/27/2011) – I should mention that there appear to be several reporting units that reported partial results to the GAB. That may be skewing the results some.
R&E part 2 (8:41 am 4/28/2011) – I cannot stress enough that the recounted numbers at this point are both incomplete and uncanvassed. Looking through my spreadsheet, there are several “anomalies” which, at this point, I ascribe to one of two factors – partial reporting of results from a particular reporting unit (outside of the city of Kenosha, this involves reporting units containing multiple wards) and likely transcription errors.
An extreme example of the last appears to be up in Bayfield County. The pre-recount canvassed numbers in the Town of Delta had the results from that town as Kloppenburg 61 votes, Prosser 49 votes; however, the reported (as of yesterday) recounted numbers had the results as Prosser 49 votes, Kloppenburg 11 votes.
If I wanted to fly off the handle like some of those on Wisconsin’s left did after Waukesha County discovered its clerk-induced error during the canvass, I could accuse Bayfield County’s clerk of intentionally holding back votes. After all, the pre-recount results had Kloppenburg more than doubling up on Prosser in that county. However, another reporting unit in that county, the city of Washburn Wards 1-4 (i.e. the entire city) had a gain of 60 votes for Kloppenburg compared to a 0-vote change for Prosser.
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