The Wisconsin Recount - where we stand

Since two recount petitions were filed for a Wisconsin recount of the presidental election, procedures for the recount are now under way. County clerks around the state are currently providing cost estimates for their recount efforts, and must provide both a cost and the method that will be used to recount optical scan ballots by the close of business today. 

The method issue is important. Current state law allows the different counties to select whether they will count the optical scan ballots by hand and visual inspection, or by feedting them through an optical scan tabulator. Since there are some practical issues with recounting with the scanner (needing to obtain a separate memory cartridge, calibrating and testing the machine, visually inspecting each ballot before scanning it, etc.) it's very possible that many of the jurisdictions will choose to hand count, since it is in a lot of cases easier and faster than doing it by scanner. This is complicated by the fact that the Jill Stein campaign has requested hand-counting of all ballots. If a number of counties are planning on counting ballots with a scanner, it's very possible the petitioning campaigns will attempt to receive a court order forcing hand counting of all of the ballots. 

A teleconference call was held this morning to determine scheduleing for the recount. Once the recount costs are determined, the elections board will request payment from the two campaigns. Both the Stein and De la Fuente campaigns will be invoiced for the full cost of the recount. Each of the campaigns willl have to pay 50% of the invoice to become a petitioner.  If they both pay the full amount, 1/2 will be refunded to each. If only one pays, they will become the sole petitioner. It seems very likely that the outcome will be that the Stein campaign will pay the entire bill and be the only petitioner. If neither campaign pays the bill by 4:30 PM on Tuesday,  the recount will stop. 

At that point the recount will be posted and notice will be sent to all of the candidates. This requires a 24 hour waiting period, so the earliest the recount can start would be Thursday of this week. County elections boards are at the moment scrambling to come up with enough canvassers to conduct the recount - in most cases this will be the clerks from the different jursidictions in the county, but it's likely that other volunteers will be needed at least in some counties, since there is a very short timeline for the recount. At least in theory, the recount must be completed by December 13 to conform to federal law and to allow the electors to place votes with the Electoral College. Since recounts are being requested in at least three states,it's entirely possible that one or more of the states will not complete the recount on time. This will create some interesting untested possibilities. I hope it does not come to that. 

A few quick footnotes - The entire recount process is documented in the state recount manual. (link is external) Also, I have been asked by numerous people what I think the outcome of the recount will be. Honestly I will be genuinely shocked if the recount makes any significant change to the election outcome in either direction..However, I think it isgood for us to have a serious check on the transparency of the election process, particularly in an election that has been so unsettling to many in the country.

Lastly - there is another recount underway in the Kapanke-Schilling race. That recount has already begun. Since it is only affecting three counties, it's likely that one will be completed soon, though it is not clear to me what the interactions of the two recounts may be. 

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