Scieszinski hasn't reached recount decision

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Jim Leute
Thursday, August 14, 2014

JANESVILLE—Several close races in Tuesday's partisan primary election could result in recalls, including the 15th Senate District race in which Rep. Janis Ringhand edged Austin Scieszinski by fewer than 300 votes.

That's the word from Kevin Kennedy, director and general counsel of the state Government Accountability Board.

“The GAB is watching unofficial results and will consult with county clerks about official canvass and potential recount procedures,” Kennedy said.

The state Legislature in 2007 created the board by merging the state's election and ethics boards. The board administers and enforces Wisconsin law pertaining to campaign finance, elections, ethics and lobbying.

In the 15th Senate District, which covers portions of Rock and four other counties, unofficial returns show Ringhand with 6,157 votes, Scieszinski with 5,883 votes and former Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan with 3,448 votes.

The vote differential between Ringhand and Scieszinski is 274, about 1.8 percent of the total ballots cast.

In the Republican primary for the 6th Assembly District in Shawano County, 214 votes separate the top two candidates.

Over in the 17th Senate District in Milwaukee County, just two votes separate the Democrats.

All of the ballots aren't in, however.

Absentee ballots postmarked by Tuesday have until 4 p.m. today to arrive in municipal clerks' offices, according to the board.

Scieszinski said Thursday he hasn't made a decision about a recount.

“It's been an arduous campaign, and I think we'll  let the process play out and see what the count is,” he said.

Ringhand told the Wisconsin State Journal she thinks the 274-vote unofficial difference is “enough of a margin to avoid a recount.”

The winner of the primary will face Republican Brian Fitzgerald of Janesville in the Nov. 4 general election.

The GAB this week answered several questions relating to recounts.

Q: After the absentee and any provisional ballots are received, when do the election results become official?

A: Municipal boards must finish their canvass by 4 p.m. Monday, Aug. 18. They will report results to the county clerk, who convenes the county board of canvassers.

The county boards of canvassers must begin their work by 9 a.m. Tuesday, which is when the Rock County canvass is scheduled.

County clerks must report their canvass statement to the GAB by the close of business Friday, Aug. 22.

The board will certify the state canvass of any state and federal elections for which no recount petition is filed no later than Aug. 27.

Q: Are recounts automatic if a race is close?

A: No. A losing candidate must request a recount.

Q: When can a candidate request a recount?

A: State and federal candidates can't ask for recounts until all the counties in a district—five in the case of the 15th Senate District—have reported official canvass results to the state.

Q: How long do candidates have to request recounts?

A: State and federal candidates have until 5 p.m. on the third business day after the last county in a district reports results to the GAB.

For example, if all county canvasses in the district are reported Tuesday, the deadline for a recount petition would be 5 p.m. Friday, Aug. 22.

Q: How soon does the recount start?

A: The GAB notifies county clerks of any recount petition and issues a recount order. The clerk has until 9 a.m. on the second day after receiving the notice to convene the county board of canvassers.

Q: How much does the requesting candidate pay for a recount?

A: The cost depends on how many votes were cast and the margin between the top two candidates.

When there are more than 1,000 votes cast for the office, there is no fee if the margin is less than or equal to 0.5 percent.

Between 0.5 and 2 percent—which is the case in the 15th Senate District—the candidate would pay a fee of $5 per ward. There are 96 wards in the 15th District, which means a full recount would cost $480.

If the margin is more than 2 percent, the candidate pays the actual cost.

Q: Where are recounts conducted?

A: The county board of canvassers conducts recounts for county, state and federal offices.

In a multi-county district, such as the 15th Senate District, a losing candidate can request a recount in one, some or all of the counties.

Q: When do recounts have to be finished?

A: As soon as possible but, for state and federal offices, no later than 13 days from the date of the GAB's recount order.

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