Clerks say they’re carrying out recount fairly

(Photo: WBAY)
(Photo: WBAY)

ASHWAUBENON, Wis. (WBAY) – The presidential recount is now underway in Wisconsin.

It’s the first candidate-driven recount in the United States since Florida in 2000. It was requested by Green Party candidate Jill Stein, who expressed concern that election machines might have been hacked and results compromised.

Workers in all of Wisconsin’s 72 counties are recounting ballots. Brown County’s clerk is conducting it at an office building in Ashwaubenon, saying the clerk’s office in Green Bay doesn’t have enough space to count all 130,000 ballots.

“We’re at a facility that’s offsite from county buildings. That meant we had to transport everything that we had here today from other locations,” Brown County Clerk Sandy Juno said.

It took a couple hours to get organized, but crews started counting ballots at about 11:30 Thursday morning. They plan to work until 7 p.m. for this first day of the recount. With the first day of the recount almost over, Juno said there haven’t been any significant problems.

In addition to its regular staff, the county hired another 30 workers to help tally up the ballots.

To do that they’re using a rented machine to electronically count the votes. Juno says it’s “the same type of equipment that we normally use at a polling place. The ones at the polling place an individual would feed into the tabulator. What we’re renting is a high-speed tabulator.”

They’re able to do that because of a Dane County judge’s ruling denying Stein’s request for a hand count. The judge said Stein’s experts showed it’s possible electronic voting machines could be hacked but no evidence that they were. The ruling upholds a Wisconsin Elections Commission decision to follow state law, which lets each county choose how it recounts the ballots.

In Shawano County, the clerk decided to count half of the 20,000 ballots by hand and the other half electronically. They’ve been working since 9 a.m.

By the end of the first day, one county finished its recount. Menominee County found 29 votes that weren’t added to the tally sheet on election night. It blamed human error.

Donald Trump lost 2 votes in the recount, Hillary Clinton lost 1, Darrell Castle gained 3, Gary Johnson gained 12, and Jill Stein gained 17.

Gov. Walker says people should consider the immense amount of work count clerks are now facing.

“They’ve already had a big election cycle to go through. It’s unfortunate, but it’s legal,” he said.

Both clerks say they’re committed to making sure votes are counted fairly before the state’s December 12 deadline.

“We’re only taking a few bags of the ballots out at a time. The rest are all secured. Just taking out the ones we’re working on at the moment,” Shawano County Clerk Pamela Schmidt said.

Schmidt says counting their 43 reporting units in 38 municipalities could be finished next Wednesday or Thursday.

Juno expects they’ll be working 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day, including weekends, through December 12. “If we should end early, that would be great,” she said.

Almost no one expects the outcome to change once the recall is finished. The recount certainly won’t change Stein’s chances of winning Wisconsin — she would need more than a million votes to overtake Donald Trump — but it could impact Hillary Clinton’s chances or expose fraud.

The recount prompted a lawsuit from the Republican Party of Wisconsin on Wednesday, alleging Stein’s call for a recount constitutes illegal coordination with Hillary Clinton’s campaign. The complaint says it appears the Democrat’s campaign helped Stein raise money for the recount. Clinton lost Wisconsin by about 22,000 votes but the campaign didn’t seek a recount itself.

Gov. Walker says he doesn’t believe the reason behind the recount is solely about the presidential election.

“This is nothing more than a fundraising scheme by the Green Party,” he said. “They’re using this to both raise money for the recount, for which they haven’t committed that they’ll use all of it for the recount, they’ll probably keep some of it, and then they’ll create a long-term mailing list that they’ll use for their political functions but under the law, they have the right to do that.”

The Wisconsin GOP also launched a new campaign Thursday called “Stop the Steal,” including a digital billboard along Interstate 43 near General Mitchell International Airport. The GOP says the billboard saying “Don’t let liberals steal the election!” is meant to be seen by attorneys for both the Stein and Clinton campaigns as they arrive in the state for the recount. Its “Stop the Steal” website asks people to provide an email address and donate to the Wisconsin Republican Party.