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Recount expected to start sometime next week

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Catherine W. Idzerda
April 22, 2011
— No pencils.

No blue or black pens.


No purses, backpacks or brief cases.


Those are just a few of the rules for the recount room.


On Monday, Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board will issue instructions and a start date for the recount in the Supreme Court race between incumbent Justice David Prosser and Assistant Attorney General JoAnne Kloppenburg.


On Tuesday, Rock County Clerk Lori Stottler expects to begin recounting all 37,000 ballots cast in that election.


Initial returns gave the victory to Kloppenburg, but two days after the election, Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus said she had failed to report 14,000 votes. Those votes gave Prosser the lead.


Kloppenburg on Wednesday announced that she wants a recount. Each county will pay the cost of the recount.


“We will be reviewing all the votes from 28 municipalities,” Stottler said. “That’s 50 polling places.”


In Walworth County, officials will be recounting approximately 23,500 votes, said County Clerk Kim Bushey.


In 2010, Stottler ran a recount in the 45th State Assembly primary election. Amy Loudenbeck defeated Jeff Klett by 19 votes, and a recount confirmed her victory.


“There were 6,700 ballots,” Stottler said. “It took about two-and-a-half days.”


The cost came to about $1,800.


Stottler isn’t sure how much the Supreme Court recount will cost—a “couple thousand,” is all she could predict.


If the state requires new data boxes for the ballot boxes, they would cost $250 each. Or, Stottler might be allowed to rent them for $25. The data boxes track of ballots as they are fed into the ballot box. Usually, the information is downloaded, stored in the data box for a specified period of time, and then cleared. In this case, the state might wish keep the original data boxes.


Volunteer poll workers, two paid members of the board of canvass, the county clerk and the deputy county clerk work the recount. Board of canvass workers cost about $109 per person per day.


The work of the county clerk’s office continues, and there may be overtime expenses during the recount period, as well.


The first step in a recount?


“I’ve already had them change the locks on the room that we’re using,” Stottler said. “Only I will have the key. We’re also going to have a chain and padlock on the doors.”


During the recount, a observer area will be taped off. Workers will have to leave their coats, purses, and briefcases and cell phones on a coat rack near the entryway.


Officials begin by looking at all the tape totals from each polling place, checking for human errors, such as transposed numbers.


Then, poll books are compared. When voters check in at the polls, their names are checked off in each book, they are given ballot numbers, and the ballot numbers are written in the books. During the recount, they will check if the ballot numbers in each book match.


Finally, the ballot bags are opened, and the ballots are separated into piles by candidate.


Officials look especially carefully at absentee ballots.


“Even though the instructions tell you not to, some people go into their craft room and use a black gel pen on the ballots.”


The machine might incorrectly read such a ballot. Or the pen might have made a smear on another area of the ballot, causing the smear to be read as a vote.


Officials also review rejected or defective ballots.


Finally, after running test ballots through the machines to make sure they’re working properly, every ballot is recounted.


Throughout the process, security will be tight. Workers must sign in and out, no one is allowed into the recount area without permission, nor is there any video or audio recording allowed without prior permission.


Food and drink is not allowed.


“We don’t want cups of coffee next to those ballots,” Stottler said.



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