Patti Wenzel

And the recount begins

By - Apr 28th, 2011 04:00 am

If you’re expecting to see images reminiscent of Florida 2000, you’re out of luck.  The first day of the Wisconsin Supreme Count election recount began and ended quietly in Milwaukee County with no protesters, a few citizen observers and about 50 Kloppenburg and Prosser operatives.

No hanging chads – just election canvassers sorting through the paper scan sheets each voter filled out on April 5, putting them into piles designated for Justice David Prosser or Assistant Attorney General JoAnne Kloppenburg. An occasional question as to the marking of an arrow on the ballot brought over county election commission officials, who listened to polite challenges from the observers.

Only one magnifying glass was noticed on a table next to a Kloppenburg worker.

Milwaukee County is holding its recount at the county’s sports complex in Franklin. The 55,000 square foot building is large enough to hold canvassers from the 19 municipalities, but that isn’t the practice being used. Instead, Wednesday started with the cities of Milwaukee and West Allis and the village of Shorewood counting ballots. As municipalities finish their counts, others will arrive.

A pair of canvassers  – one Republican and one Democratic –  seated at 30 tables began counting Wednesday morning. Each pair is responsible for a single ward through the entire recount process; when complete they are given a new ward to count.

The ballots are secured in large  bins and guarded by Milwaukee County Sheriff’s deputies. Each ward’s ballots are enclosed in a rip-resistant plastic bag and sealed with zip ties. An election commission official verifies the ward number with paperwork supplied by the Government Accountability Board, then breaks the seal on the bag.

Milwaukee County is completing a hand recount, since most of the municipalities use older vote scanning machines. These machines would require their existing memory cartridges to be erased in order to re-run the ballots — thus destroying an original record of the count from election night. Since the original election counts must be preserved during a recount and the machines are unable to save those counts, a Dane County judge ordered and the candidates agreed to the hand count process.

Votes that were cast on the electronic screen voting machines will also be hand recounted. The machine keeps a paper record of each vote, which will be recounted in the same manner as the regular ballots.

Only four citizens joined a dozen journalists and Fox Point Village Clerk Tanya O’Malley to watch the count early Wednesday morning. Each cited curiosity as their motivation for coming out on the wet and windy day.

Patricia McCleary Groth and Walter Groth of Oak Creek wanted to see how efficient the recount would be, but were concerned that only three municipalities were counting at a time.

“That seems like it will drag it out longer than needed,” Walter said.

Both were impressed with the presence of law enforcement and surprised there were no protesters outside the building.

Renee Haas and Steve Kram described themselves as “political junkies” and wanted to see the recount in person.

“This is something you typically only get to see on T.V.,” Haas said.

The statewide recount began this morning and should be completed by May 9. However, the recount will be suspended in three state assembly districts from May 3-5, because of special elections being held next Tuesday to fill seats left vacant after Gov. Scott Walker appointed former Reps. Mike Huebsch, Scott Gunderson and Mark Gottlieb to administration positions.

Cost estimates for the recount statewide could be as high as $1 million. The cost could be as little as $120 in Price County, where slightly more than 4,000 votes were cast, to as high as $500,000 in Milwaukee County.

Haas wasn’t concerned about the cost of the recount.

“I have no problem with it. Everything costs something,” she said. “Democracy costs something.”

All photos by Patti Wenzel for ThirdCoast Digest

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