Without knowing any voters in the City of Racine's Ward 26, would you believe a voting machine that told you one in every twelve of them hadn't marked a vote for president when they cast their ballots on November 8?
Do you think that voters all across Racine County were so uninterested in the presidential election that they left their ballots blank at more than twice the rate of voters elsewhere in the state?
Most importantly, if you were a Racine County election official and were called upon to sign your name to a statement declaring those election results to be 'correct and true,' would you have signed without making sure they actually were?
That's what happened in Racine following last year's presidential election. And not just once, but twice.
On Election Day, the computer-tabulated vote totals indicated suspiciously high blank-ballot, or 'undervote' rates. But within two weeks, the County Board of Canvass had certified those totals as final--without checking their accuracy.
A few weeks later, in the Wisconsin recount, the county officials ran the ballots back through the machines. Observers noticed the machines were not counting all the votes, and again the machines' totals indicated suspiciously high undervote rates. But again the county officials certified the suspicious results, again without checking their accuracy.
So now, volunteer citizens will find out the truth. On September 1, citizens submitted an open-records request to the municipal clerks of the City of Racine and the Village of Elmwood Park. They plan to perform publicly observable manual counts of the votes in the presidential election in four of the polling places with suspicious results.
When these counts are scheduled, we will announce the time and place here and on the Wisconsin Election Integrity Facebook page.
Why are we doing this?
Racine resident Scott Farnsworth stated, “The 2016 election is over and done. This is about our future elections.”
"We need the manual counts to get the truth,” added Village of Pleasant Prairie resident Liz Whitlock. Whitlock was among the recount observers as Racine county officials ran the ballots back through the voting machines, and could see that the voting machines were missing votes.
The scandal is not that the voting machines miscounted. No one has yet invented a computer that is completely immune to error, to malfunction, and to manipulation. As a result, no one seriously expects voting machines to get it right in every single election and in every single race.
The scandal is that Wisconsin's county election officials routinely declare election results final without looking to see whether the machines counted the votes correctly.
Blind trust in the computer-generated vote totals is normal practice not just in Racine County, but in every county in Wisconsin.
This needs to change.
At the very least, Wisconsin’s county election officials need to notice and correct the obvious errors, such as unbelievable undervote rates. They need to begin to follow Wisconsin Elections Commission written instructions for the county canvassers, which already instruct them to "ensure no large discrepancies are evident."
At best, we're hoping that this project hurries the day when Wisconsin's election officials heed the audit recommendations of national authorities, follow the lead of their colleagues in other states, and routinely confirm that they've identified the right winners before they declare election results final.
To receive updates as this project proceeds,
contact us at WiscElectionIntegrity@gmail.com and ask to be put on our mailing list. You can also follow us on Facebook at Wisconsin Election Integrity.
Here are links to more information about:
- How we calculated Racine County’s undervote rates (the election officials don’t, but they do release election statistics that allow the public to);
- The evidence indicating that Racine County’s voting machines miscounted both on Election Day and in the recount;
- A quick description of Wisconsin’s processes and procedures for counting votes and turning preliminary election results into final election results; and
- A discussion of standards for accurate vote counting, and why we need to watch for miscounts even when they don’t change the outcome of the election.
- Finally, for an enlightening discussion of the merits of hand-counting versus machine counting, with nationally renowned experts discussing Wisconsin's elections, read this edited transcript of a hearing in Dane County Court on November 29, 2016. The Judge decided that state law prevented her from ordering counties to hand count, but the Judge also made it clear that: 1) county boards of canvass may choose to hand count; and 2) all the evidence supported hand counts as the only reliable way to verify computer-tabulated election results.
Update, September 8: Both the City of Racine municipal clerk and the Village of Elmwood Park municipal clerk have replied to our request to view the ballots. They both say that the Racine County Clerk has had physical possession of the ballots since the recount, and that we need to submit the open-records request to her to view the ballots. Statutes are not explicit about whether the municipal clerk or county clerk are, in fact, the legal custodian of the records, so we're not going to argue. A new open-records request will be submitted to Racine County Clerk Wendy Christensen on Monday, September 11.