March 2017: Final report on Wisconsin's historic recount issued by the Stein recount team!
- Although Wisconsin is among the shrinking number of states that do not routinely audit election results, Wisconsin did a better job of recounting than either of the other two states in which recounts were sought.
- Unfortunately, only about half of Wisconsin's ballots were actually recounted. The other half were fed back through voting machines programmed by the same people who programmed them for the election.
- County canvasses reported election results after the recount that differed by at least 17,681 votes from the results that they certified as 'correct and true' before the recount.
- The major causes of miscounts included inaccurate counting of write-in votes; unreliable processing of early ballots; and voting machines that were unable to read voter intent.
- Canvass procedures used by Wisconsin election officials allowed them to certify even obvious miscounts before the recount. Until Wisconsin voters insist that officials verify accuracy during the canvass, it is virtually certain that the final results of every Wisconsin election will contain errors that could have been detected and corrected with responsible, modern canvass procedures.
* * *
In December 2016, Wisconsin election officials got a rare opportunity to review the quality of their work when fed-up citizens donated more than the State's quoted price of $3.7 million to finally get our election results checked for accuracy.
Unfortunately, the recount discovered what we expected.
First, officials in most of Wisconsin's largest counties didn't recount at all, but ran the ballots back through computers programmed by the same people who programmed them for the election. So if Milwaukee County's voting machines were hacked, we still wouldn't know it.
Second, even with hand counts of only about half the State's ballots, vote-counting errors were discovered in 2,340 polling places, more than 64% of the total. The state's county clerks changed their vote totals by more than 17,681 votes from the election results they had previously sworn to be 'correct and true.'
- Vote-counting computers in Marinette County were discovered to have missed one quarter of all votes on paper early ballots. The clerk told Wisconsin Election Integrity that the county canvass hadn't noticed the error, didn't look for errors, and wouldn't correct any if they saw them. She believes it's the poll workers' job to count votes correctly, and her job to add up the totals they submit. (She's wrong about that--poll workers have no authority to correct a machine count with hand count on their own initiative, but the county clerk does.)
- In Milwaukee County, one precinct simply dropped 247 votes for one candidate. Neither the county officials nor the state Wisconsin Election Commission noticed the apparent 40.25% undervote rate until the recounters found the error.
- In Dane County, polling places in three municipalities, including Madison, failed to count more than five dozen absentee ballots, which were still in their envelopes when the recount started. Neither the municipal nor county canvass had noticed those errors.
- Vote-counting computers in St. Croix County were discovered to have been operating with broken security seals for two years through the past four elections.
- In at least two counties, recount observers noticed that vote-counting computers were equipped with wireless communications capability, despite the assurances of national and local officials that our voting machines are never connected to the Internet.
Check out our Facebook page for discussion.
Let's be realistic: vote-counting errors are not preventable. But declaring election results final without looking for and correcting errors is entirely optional. Other states are moving ahead with modern technology and management methods. Verified accurate results after every election are completely within our reach.
You can join the ongoing fight to make sure our voting rights don't end when the polls close. To get news and notices--such as notice when our report on the recount is complete--sign up for our email list by dropping us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook, and check out our blog.
In particular, check out these five ways any Wisconsin voter can encourage and help your local municipal clerk and county clerk fulfill current responsibilities. We don't need any new laws or procedures to make some improvements. The first thing we need is for people of good will and civic dedication to get involved with local election administration to make sure current standards and requirements are being met.
* * *