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Absentee ballots cost Gibbs three votes

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Kevin Hoffman
September 28, 2010
— Improperly filed absentee ballots cost 32nd Assembly District candidate Adam Gibbs three votes during a five-day recount that lost him the Republican nomination.

Gibbs surrendered four votes total while his opponent Tyler August gained three and squeaked out a slim 1,760 to 1,757 victory. Gibbs first held a four-vote lead after the Sept. 14 primary.


Walworth County Clerk Kim Bushey said Monday the canvassing board removed four absentee ballots because of certification errors. The ballots must be kept in envelopes that are both witnessed and signed by the voter, according to Wisconsin statutes.


Three of the ballots were votes for Gibbs. Bushey said she couldn’t recall how Gibbs lost a fourth vote.


Minutes recorded during the recount, which was open to the public, should be available by next week, she said.


Absentee voting is a delicate process, and the state strictly governs how ballots are handled to prevent fraud and abuse. It sometimes causes confusion, or the voter misses a detail.


“I think it’s important that every vote counts,” Bushey said. “You want to take due care to make sure you’re signing and witnessing your envelopes.”


Reid Magney, spokesperson for the Government Accountability Board, said a recount hasn’t changed the outcome in an election for state office since 1979.


Gibbs losing four votes would have drawn him even with his opponent, but August gained three.


Bushey said one vote was approved after a municipality improperly rejected it during the primary.


Another ballot had a mark drawn through August and fellow 32nd Assembly candidate John Finley. It’s up to the canvassing board to determine voter intent, and it ruled the vote was cast for August.


Days earlier, August gained one vote in Kenosha County’s recount, which included the 526 votes cast in Wheatland Township. All 19 absentee ballots submitted there were valid.


Gibbs raised objections to the initial petition for a recount as well as the makeup of the canvassing board. He said the three board members have ties to August, creating a conflict of interest.


Gibbs has until Friday to protest the recount in circuit court, but he said he’s reluctant to do so. Both candidates said they want a quick resolution and to avoid dividing the Republican party.


August faces Doug Harrod of Genoa City in November’s general election. Harrod was the only Democrat to file in the race.


The ballot also will include independents Daniel Kilkenny of Delavan and Rick Pappas of Fontana.



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