Wisconsin Democracy Campaign

Bill Restricts Election Recounts

Inspired by Jill Stein recount, would make state more restrictive than most.

By - Apr 12th, 2017 09:55 am
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Jill Stein. Photo courtesy of Jill Stein for President.

Jill Stein. Photo courtesy of Jill Stein for President.

A Republican bill to restrict the use of recounts in state and local elections in Wisconsin is moving forward at the State Capitol. The measure, which received a public hearing last week, would have prevented last year’s presidential recount in Wisconsin.

The proposal, Senate Bill 102, would allow only second-place finishers within 1 percent or less of the winner’s total vote in an election with 4,000 or more votes to request a recount. In races where fewer than 4,000 votes are cast, the candidate seeking a recount must be within 40 votes of the winner. Like current law, taxpayers would still pay for recounts where the difference between the first- and second-place finisher is within one-quarter of one percent.

The bill, which was introduced by GOP Sen. Devin LeMahieu, of Oosburg, and Rep. Ron Tusler, of Harrison, also shortens the deadline for a recount petition to be filed and increases the amount of time for a petitioner to pay the recount costs. So far, the proposal is backed by the Outagamie County Board of Supervisors and the Wisconsin Towns Association. Reaction to the bill has been mixed: Some Democratic lawmakers oppose the bill, and GOP Assembly Speaker Robin Vos says the measure isn’t necessary.

Last year’s presidential recount was requested by Green Party candidate Jill Stein, who finished fourth in Wisconsin with about one percent of the vote. She raised more than $3.5 million to pay for the recount, which ended up costing about $2 million. Under this bill, Stein would not have been able to request a recount, but Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who lost to Republican Donald Trump by less than one percent in Wisconsin, would be able to request a recount.

The National Conference of State Legislatures says 43 states allow losing candidates, voters or other concerned parties to request a recount. Only a few states have laws that only permit a candidate who loses within a specified margin to request a recount.

LeMahieu’s top contributors between January 2015 and December 2016 were Thomas and Bea Hollfelder, of Elkhart Lake, retired owners of Tiger Racing, $2,000, and General Electric’s political action committee (PAC), $1,000.

Tusler’s top contributors between January 2015 and December 2016 were the state Republican Party at $4,910, and $1,000 each from the Wisconsin Realtors Association PAC, Delafield attorney Thomas Grieve, Brillion retiree Bob Endries, Delafield physician Jennifer Quick, and Steve Endries, of Menasha, president of Endries International.

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