State Senate Dems reportedly win both contests today, 5 overall, compared to 4 wins by GOP...
By Brad Friedman on 8/16/2011, 9:12pm PT  

The final round of state Senate recalls in Wisconsin, brought on in response to anti-union legislation by Gov. Scott Walker and state Republicans, have completed today. AP is reporting tonight that the two Democrats up for recall in the state's 12th and 22nd have each retained their seats. TPM has the numbers by district here.

By way of reminder, in Wisconsin most votes are cast by hand-marked paper ballot though tallied secretly by optical-scanners made by Diebold, Sequoia and ES&S. The state does not examine any optically-scanned ballots to assure the machines have tallied accurately after they've already been scanned, other than in the even of a recount if permission is granted by the courts to hand-count ballots. I'm told, but haven't been able to confirm today, that some of the municipalities in the two districts where elections were held today, may have been hand-counting ballots, though centrally, after they've been transported, rather than at the precincts. Given there was only one single race on the ballot today and hand-counting would consist largely of making two separate piles, it seems as if it would have been cheaper and easier (and certainly more reliable and transparent) to hand-count all of the ballots in these recounts. But, sadly, that's not the case. So we're forced to rely, in most cases, on the oft-failed, easily-manipulated computer-reported results from the Badger State. Mack Trucks, if you will, used to deliver pizzas.

Once again, election watchdog Election Defense Alliance (EDA) and a number of other organizations were carrying out Exit Polls at the several sites today, as one of the few weapons left to help avoid and/or ferret out potential election fraud or vote tabulation error. I spoke with EDA's National Coordinator Sally Castleman earlier this evening, and --- unlike during the July primaries and during last week's GOP recalls, no problems have been reported by the Exit Poll teams at the wards.

By way of another reminder, problems with vote tabulation often do not come to light until days, or even longer, after elections. So far, however, there have been pleasantly few reports of problems that I've heard about or been able to find today. There was this odd incident at a Kenosha ward and at another ward there where they reportedly ran out of ballots for a short time (is that report accurate, where it says the County "printed up 300 additional ballots" in a pinch? They can print up ballots just like that??) as turnout was reportedly heavy in most areas today, said to have been on par with a gubernatorial election. That's some good news to report at this hour. If anything changes, of course, we'll let you know.

If the largely unverified results stand as currently reported, there will have been 5 wins total for Democrats --- 2 tonight, 2 last Tuesday, and 1 in July --- in these state Senate recalls. Republicans will have won just 4 of the races, all last week, and will have lost 2 seats, while the Democrats lost none.

Despite their victories, however, the Dems will have fallen one short of re-taking the majority in the state Senate, where the GOP will still enjoy a slim 17-16 advantage. One moderate Republican, however, state Senator Dale Schultz, who voted against the GOP anti-union agenda, may well serve as a firewall against continued radical Republicanism in the state. Nonetheless, after last week's recalls of 6 Republicans, where Democrats picked up 2 seats from the Republicans, the GOP sent out statements declaring "victory" in Wisconsin.

Until Walker's own recall election, which could happen early next year if Democrats are able to gather enough signatures beginning in November, we may be done with the wild string of elections in Wisconsin...at least for now.