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Wisconsin’s Recount Laws Need to be Amended 

Recounts of close elections should utilize methods that cross-check the election night tally.  Wisconsin recounts do not meet this simple standard.  The statute was changed in 2006 to mandate that all machine-readable ballots must be recounted by machine.  The clerks and Board of Canvassers often use the same memory card (or same program) that was used on election night for that particular ward.  If the memory cards were programmed incorrectly, they will give the same wrong results as they did on election night.

This applies to all optical scan ballots in Wisconsin, which are used by about 85% of the voters.

Fair Elections Wisconsin is calling for state legislation for thorough and transparent recounts. 

Legislation must include:

1.  Option to hand count

The legislation shall give the Board of Canvassers the option to conduct the recount by machine or by hand.  This was the law until Act 451 changed it on July 1, 2006.  There are situations when manual counts are simpler and faster, and will lead to greater confidence in the accuracy.  Current statutory reference:  5.90

2. Pre-screen for voter intent

If the Board of Canvassers decides to recount optical scan ballots by machine, the legislation shall require that they pre-screen the ballots to separate any that are likely to be miscounted or not counted by the machine.  (This is currently optional.) These ballots would be examined for voter intent per 7.50 (2), and then added to the count.  The pre-screening requirement would be waived if the voting machine were programmed to separate undervotes in the contest of interest.  The undervotes would then be examined for voter intent.  Perhaps the legislation should require the GAB to improve their criteria for judging voter intent, and develop a detailed manual similar to the one recently developed by the state of Washington.  Current statutory reference:  9.01 (1) (b) 8s

3.  Rule for partial manual count

Within six months of passage, the GAB staff must recommend to the GAB procedures for a partial manual count of voted optical scan ballots, should the Board of Canvassers decide to use voting machines for the recount. Within twelve months of passage, the recommendations must be submitted to the Legislative Council for review as an administrative rule.  This partial manual count of ballots cast by voters is intended as a crosscheck of the machine counts.

The procedure could involve a random sample of wards, or some ballots from some or all wards.  The rule shall include escalation procedures should the partial manual count diverge from the machine results.  Escalation procedures would involve more manual counts.

The above proposal was submitted to Representative Terese Berceau on December 11, 2007. Here is the letter and supporting material.

Web page by Paul Malischke       malischke@yahoo.com       Last updated August 07, 2013