In a state Supreme Court race that still has no declared winner, Wisconsin taxpayers will be responsible for funding the first statewide vote recount in 22 years.
Currently, official results from the April 5 election show incumbent Justice David Prosser ahead of Assistant Attorney General JoAnne Kloppenburg by 7,316 votes, which is less than 0.5 percent of the 1.5 million votes cast.
The recount, which is likely to begin Wednesday, comes per Kloppenburg’s request following post-election controversy in Waukesha County. Two days after the election, County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus admitted she failed to include 14,315 votes from the city of Brookfield in her initial tallies. Prior to Nickolaus’ mistake, unofficial results showed Kloppenburg ahead by 204 votes.
Although Kloppenburg requested the recount, her campaign will not have to fund it because the vote margin between candidates is so slim. Instead, money for the venture will come from Wisconsin taxpayers via individual county budgets.
Lisa Weiner, the Milwaukee County Elections Board administrator, said the cost of the recount will most likely be very high. She said it could add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars within some counties, which would rival the cost of an actual election.
Weiner also said the recount would require a large amount of space, and that she is trying to secure the Milwaukee County Sports Complex in Franklin, Wis., for the procedure.
“It’s the largest county-owned facility available,” she said. “If you factor in all of the volunteers, attorneys and journalists who will be there, it makes sense why we need such a large location.”
According to the county’s Parks Department website, the facility is 55,000 square feet, and can hold up to 3,260 people.
Due to the immensity of the recount, the state’s Government Accountability Board released a set of rules and procedures for those involved to abide by. The document says poll workers must first check the number of ballots cast against polling records. After that, each county’s team of workers will count their own ballots, then trade with another team to confirm the results.
The rules only pertain to the 31 counties doing hand recounts, with Milwaukee County included in that number. The hand recounts were ordered for places where voting machines could not be used without erasing election-night data.
Those physically doing the recounting will not be the only people in the room, however. Although the two campaigns have different views on the purpose of the recount, both said they plan to have observers and attorneys overseeing all 72 counties’ recount efforts.
Jim Troupis, an attorney for Prosser, said the recount is “frivolous,” but the incumbent will still have hundreds of volunteers from across the county monitoring the process when it happens.
“It’s highly unlikely this will change the outcome of the race,” Troupis said. “But we’re comfortable with it, and if anything, it will only solidify Justice Prosser’s win more quickly.”
On the other side, in a news conference Wednesday, Kloppenburg said a recount is reasonable because every doubt surrounding voting and the election was magnified after the mistake in Waukesha County.
“If there are problems, we need to identify and fix them,” she said. “If there is doubt, we need to remove it. If there was misconduct, we must hold those who perpetuated it accountable.”