Monday, January 2, 2017

Upon further review, recount was worthwhile..and cheaper

The recount of the presidential election in Wisconsin may have been certified 3 weeks ago, and even though the final results didn't change all that much, with Donald Trump extending his lead over Hillary Clinton by 571 votes to win the state by 0.76%, that doesn't mean things can't be improved.

That's reiterated from an in-depth article that appeared over the weekend by the State Journal's Matthew DeFour which discusses a number of issues that came up while the votes were being recounted.
At least 9,039 presidential votes weren’t counted correctly on Election Night, and only were added to the official results because of the recount, the State Journal review found. Another 2,161 votes were originally counted but later tossed out for reasons including to square vote totals with the number of voters who signed the poll book.

The more than 11,000 changes to the original vote total represent a minor 0.38 percent error rate out of the nearly 3 million votes counted.

State election officials, who cast the 12-day recount as a complete audit of the state election system at no cost to the public, say the changes are mostly the result of human error, not a problem with the voting equipment.

The analysis found one type of voting machine — the Optech Eagle, which processed about 10.6 percent of the ballots in the state — produced an error rate of 0.8 percent, likely because some voters didn’t comply with instructions to use a certain kind of ink or pencil.

Eau Claire County, one of the few still using the machines, is planning to replace them.
It's not surprising that some voters would think that using their own pen or marker to fill in a circle on the ballot would be sufficient, especially if they received a ballot at home and mailed it back in. I don't think we need to be blaming citizens for this- we need to be getting rid of machines that won't count the vote.

The Wisconsin Elections Commission has a list of other problems and disparities that were found during the recount across various municipalities, including local elections officials writing down and/or reporting the wrong number for a candidate, and absentee/early votes that were left in sealed envelopes and not counted until they were found during the course of the recount. These errors are innocent, but they are items that seem to be in need of clarifying legislation or directions from the Elections Commission so that they happen less often.

Later on in the article, DeFour mentions that Dane County Clerk Scott McDonnell told him that some ballots were thrown out because a voter filled out the circle for a certain candidate, then filled in that candidate's name on the write-in line, which said it was an illegal "double vote". Those votes were able to be "saved" and counted because of the recount. If you dig into the changes from the "certified" numbers and the recount totals, it appears that write-in votes were frequently ignored by local election officials on November 8, and one write-in candidate in particular grabbed a lot of new votes as the recount was completed.

Wisconsin president, 2016
Trump 1,405,284 (+1,284 vs Nov certification)
Clinton 1,382,536 (+713)
Johnson 106,674 (+89)
Stein 31,072 (+66)
Castle 12,162 (+6)
McMullin (write-in) 11,855 (+1,857)
Total votes counted 2,976,150 (+837)

Nearly 2,000 more votes were found for McMullin, as people reviewed ballots during the recount, and realized that voters had selected the write-in. In fact, the reason there was only growth of 837 total votes while the top 6 candidates got an additional 4,000 votes is because they took away from what the Wisconsin Elections Commission calls "scattering", which is supposed to be for write-in votes that don't correspond to an official write-in candidate (i.e. voting for Mickey Mouse). Combone this with Clerk McDonnell's notes about how many discarded "double votes" were really for candidates on the ballot, and it tells me that all write-in votes need to be tallied and recorded, even if they are for Mickey Mouse. And local election officials need to be given the latitude to recognize when official candidates names (those on the ballot or otherwise) are being written, and count those votes. Even if that slows things down a bit on Election Night, so what? At least voters get their choices counted.

Oh, and this tidbit about the recount also dropped over the New Year's weekend.
Reimbursement requests submitted to the Wisconsin Elections Commission by 69 of the state’s 72 counties show the actual cost of those clerks doing the recount was just over $1.8 million – well below the almost $3.9 million clerks had originally told the state the recount would cost.

The three clerks who have not yet reported numbers to the state are from Brown, Kenosha, and Pierce counties, which had combined cost estimates of just under $510,000. Wisconsin Elections Commission Administrator Mike Haas said Milwaukee County’s final numbers were also preliminary, due some pending invoices.

Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein requested and paid for the recount, which wrapped up earlier this month. Her campaign already gave the state $3.5 million. Any money left over from that payment will be reimbursed to the campaign.
If you want to have some fun, take a look at the spreadsheet organized by the Wisconsin Radio Network that shows the difference between the estimated costs by Wisconsin counties, and the actual costs. Turns out several counties overestimated their costs by 2-5 times, and Oneida County, blew their estimates by nearly 20 times! ($178,000 estimated, $9,000 actual).

So all the right-wing scare tactics and lies over the last month about how "costly" the recount was? Not so much! And even more heinous are the right-wing lies that were spread about how Wisconsin taxpayers somehow paid for this (THEY AREN'T PAYING A DIME). What we should be talking about is why many counties blew their estimates so badly, and how many of them were "tabulated" by GOP county clerks that wanted to discourage the Stein campaign from doing so. Do I think these facts and questions will be presented to the dimwits listening to GOP-perganda radio and Internet? HELL NO!

Bottom line- the Wisconsin recount was a worthwhile endeavor, as we have found real problems with our election procedures and vote-counting that need to be cleaned up. Putting those issues and procedures under the state and national microsope was well worth the $11 I sent to the Stein campaign to help make it happen, and it should be pounded on in the next legislative session to improve trust in a voting system many of us don't have confidence in.


  1. I am no expert on this but to me it seems that there is more damage done to an election by human error than there is in "voter fraud" that the republicans are so eager to legislate.

    1. Absolutely true. But human error doesn't stir up rubes like racist dog-whistling does, hence no GOP mention of it.