Computer results of paper ballots remain unverified by humans...
By Brad Friedman on 4/15/2011, 2:27pm PT  

Milwaukee County has finally turned in their official canvass [XLS] of last week's Supreme Court election in Wisconsin, giving the almost entirely unverified results of the largely paper-ballot election to Justice David Prosser over Asst. Attorney General JoAnne Kloppenburg by 7,316 votes, according to the Wisconsin State Journal:

A conservative justice has weathered attempts to link him to Wisconsin's governor and a divisive union rights law and won re-election, according to county vote totals finalized Friday.

Tallies from each of the state's 72 counties show Justice David Prosser defeated challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg by 7,316 votes. State election officials said they will wait to declare an official winner until the deadline for Kloppenburg to seek a recount passes. She has until Wednesday to call for one.

If Kloppenburg decides to opt for a "recount" the costs would be paid for by the state, since the canvassed results have her trailing by less than 0.5% statewide. Prosser's margin of victory, according to the currently reported numbers, should they become official, would be just 0.488%.

The official canvassing process in Milwaukee (and, indeed, the bulk of Wisconsin), is little more than a reconciliation of the number of voters who signed into poll books, plus the number of voters who registered at the polls on Election Day, plus any absentee ballots not scanned at the polling place (as in Milwaukee, where absentees are now scanned centrally, instead of at the polling place) plus a few provisional ballots later verified and counted, as matched against the number of votes reportedly cast, according to results tapes printed out by optical-scan computers such as those made by Diebold, ES&S, Sequoia and Populex.

Actual results reported by those computers are not verified by human beings as being accurate during the canvass process. Only the number of ballots cast is reconciled, not the actual votes for each candidate, in general. That, despite the fact that hand-marked paper ballots exist --- and could be counted for accuracy --- for the vast majority of the votes cast across the state on April 5th...

Our original report on the WI Supreme Court race last week --- filed when the margin of difference between the two candidates was reportedly just 204 out of some 1.5 million votes cast, based on machine-reported results --- details a number of concerns about the accuracy of the optical-scan systems used in the state, and their propensity for misreporting election results due to either malfunction or malfeasance.

While Kloppenburg has three business days to request a recount of the race, she would have to receive a court order to have ballots actually counted by hand, as Wisconsin's "recount" provisions [PDF] allow only for a re-scan of paper ballots originally tallied by optical-scanners, as per Wis. Stat. § 5.90(2).

The state's machine "recount" procedures, however, also allow that "Each ballot shall be reviewed by the board of canvassers and may be inspected by the candidates or their representatives before being fed into the machine." So a 'virtual hand-count,' of sorts, could take place whether court-ordered or not, at least as we read the state's rules on this.

Velvet' Protection Our Elections campaign has called for a complete hand-count of all paper ballots in the state, given the closeness of the reported results, the importance of this election, the irregularities already reported in Waukesha County and the oft-failed, easily-manipulated nature of Wisconsin's unverified optical scan-systems. We agree with that sentiment, and would add that Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus' past failures as an election administrator, which are now being investigated by the state's Government Accountability Board, demand nothing less than a full hand-count in hopes of achieving some measure of confidence in the final results of the election, whatever they may be.

[Disclosure: The BRAD BLOG is a co-founder of]

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Recently related articles on the WI Supreme Court race at The BRAD BLOG...

4/14/11: Waukesha, WI Follies: 97.63% Turnout in 2004? 20,000 More Votes Than 'Ballots Cast' in 2006?
4/14/11: 'State Investigating Vote Irregularities in Waukesha County Going Back 5 Years'
4/11/11: 'Democracy's Gold Standard' - A 'Special Comment' by Brad Friedman in the Wake of WI's Supreme Court Election Debacle
4/8/11: WI's Supreme Election Debacle (And What We Should, But Probably Won't, Learn From It)
4/7/11:: Prosser Up by 7500+ in WI Supreme Court Race After 'Database Error' Discovered by Controversial Clerk in Republican Waukesha County
4/6/11:: WI Supreme Court Election Virtually Deadlocked, According to the Machines Anyway

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