Area county clerks preparing for recount
29 Nov

Area county clerks preparing for recount

Local officials will retally and examine all ballots as well as poll lists

Chippewa Valley county clerks are gearing up to participate in a statewide recount of the nearly 3 million ballots cast in this month’s presidential election.

Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein and independent candidate Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente each requested a recount Friday in Wisconsin, and the state Elections Commission unanimously voted Monday to approve a recall timeline that would launch the process on Thursday in all 72 state counties. One or both of the campaigns would have to pay the full cost, earlier estimated to be about $1 million, by today to start the recount.

In the Chippewa Valley, the recount would involve retallying of the roughly 55,000 ballots cast in Eau Claire County, 32,000 in Chippewa County and 22,000 in Dunn County as well as an examination of poll lists, absentee applications, rejected absentee ballots and provisional ballots.

“It’s like going through everything with a fine-tooth comb,” said Eau Claire County Clerk Janet Loomis.

Stein, the only one of the two challengers actively raising money to pay for the Wisconsin recount, asked a judge on Monday to order a hand recount after the Elections Commission rejected her call to do that and instead left it up to local election officials whether to count ballots by hand or to use tabulation machines.

Stein alleged in a filing with the state that irregularities with the Wisconsin vote indicated potential tampering. Her Wisconsin recount request included an affidavit from University of Michigan computer scientist J. Alex Halderman stating that a hand recount is the only way to determine whether there could have been a cyberattack that affected the results. He argued that records stored in electronic voting equipment could have been manipulated in an attack.

Assuming counties are allowed to use tabulation machines, initial cost estimates are about $42,000 in Chippewa County, $17,000 in Dunn County and $20,000 to $25,000 in Eau Claire County, clerks said. The cost includes paid staff time, equipment rental and wages for the tabulators who count the ballots — most likely municipal clerks and poll workers, who represent a mix of people from both major political parties.

The price tag could more than double if counties are forced to do hand counts, said Chippewa County Clerk Sandy Frion.

“It’s a very diligent process, and you have to be very cognizant of what you’re doing and making sure that you’re crossing all your T’s and dotting your I’s and upholding the integrity of the election process,” Frion said.

In Dunn County, voting was split about 50-50 between touch-screen and paper ballots, and touch-screen votes will have to be hand tallied using the paper records those machines generate, County Clerk Julie Wathke said.

Wathke called it a labor-intensive process to count the ballots currently locked in a vault in her office but added that it’s a task she would perform without objection.

“It’s part of the job, and it’s part of the process,” Wathke said. “It’s everybody’s right to challenge results or to request a recount as long as they meet all the requirements.”

Local clerks said they expect parties and others to observe the county-level recounts, which are open to the public and could take between four and 10 days. The deadline for counties to report their recounted vote totals is 8 p.m. Monday, Dec. 12, the day before the federal deadline for the Elections Commission to certify the results. Electoral College voters meet Monday, Dec. 19, to cast their ballots officially electing the president.

Stein hopes to raise $7 million for recounts in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, saying it’s important to determine whether hacking affected the results. Trump narrowly won all three states. There’s no evidence that voter results were hacked or electronic voting machines were compromised.

The decentralized nature of Wisconsin’s voting system and the fact that the equipment in question is not connected to the internet make it difficult to see how there could have been a widespread attack, said Wisconsin Election Commission administrator Mike Haas.

Wisconsin Elections Commission Chairman Mark Thomsen vigorously defended Wisconsin’s election system, saying he was certain that Republican President-elect Donald Trump would emerge as the winner after the recount. Trump beat Democrat Hillary Clinton by 22,170 votes in Wisconsin, based on unofficial results.

The last statewide recount in Wisconsin was for a state Supreme Court race in 2011. The recount showed Justice David Prosser defeated challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg by 7,004 votes, just 312 votes less than the unofficial results showed.

That effort took more than a month and involved about half as many votes as the nearly 3 million votes cast in this year’s presidential election in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin’s unofficial election results show President-elect Donald Trump with 1,404,000 votes, Hillary Clinton with 1,381,823 votes, Stein with 31,000 votes and De La Fuente with 1,514.


Posted on November 29, 2016 by Eric Lindquist

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