Control of chamber hangs in balance, but all ballots, and current 800-vote margin, completely unverified by human beings...
By Brad Friedman on 6/6/2012, 11:05am PT  

Late last night we detailed just some of the reasons why it's impossible to know, short of actually counting the paper ballots by hand in Wisconsin, if Republican Gov. Scott Walker actually received more votes than his Democratic challenger Mayor Tom Barrett or not.

Without both a recount request and a court order for the ballots to be hand-counted, rather than machine-counted yet again, the state of Wisconsin does not manually examine any of its paper ballots to ensure that the flawed, oft-failed and easily manipulated computer optical-scan systems and central tabulators tallied any of them as per the voters' intent.

Well, the same concerns hold true this morning for Democrat John Lehman in his important recall challenge to incumbent Republican Sen. Van Wanggaard in the District 21 state Senate race. His declaration of victory late last night is based on the same completely unverified computer tallies as Walker's was earlier in the evening...

The Lehman/Wanggaard recall contest was one of four currently Republican state Senate seats up for grabs yesterday along with the recall elections of the Governor and Lt. Governor. If Democrats end up taking any one of those Senate seats, they will retake majority control of the state Senate, making it easier to block Walker's extreme Rightwing agenda.

But when Lehman announced to supporters at 1am last night that "All the vote totals are in now. It's clear we won the 21st Senate seat race!," he was presuming that the same computer tally systems used in the Walker race, and the same computer tally systems that we described last night as failing in election after election, were actually accurate in his case.

They may have been, but absolutely nobody knows --- just as with the Walker race.

According to AP, with "60 of 60 Precincts Reporting", Lehman is said to be ahead of Wanggaard by just 800 votes out of some 70,000 cast in that race. Those 70,000 votes, however, are wholly unverified as having been accurately tabulated by the computers at this hour.

While absentee ballots that arrive by Election Day were counted yesterday at the precinct in WI (the City of Milwaukee, unlike the rest of the state, counts absentee ballots separately) some military, overseas and regular absentee ballots may still come in this week and remain to be counted.

Reid Magney, spokesman for WI's Government Accountability Board (G.A.B.), the top election authority in the state, confirmed to The BRAD BLOG today that "Absentee ballots (military/overseas and regular) postmarked by election day have until 4 p.m. the Friday after the election to arrive at the municipal clerk's office and be counted."

In either case, as in the Walker race, before the remaining absentees are tallied (also by computer) the results announced to date by the electronic tabulators, and then reported without verification by the AP, are either accurate or not.

Unless all of the paper ballots are hand-counted in his race --- and so far, none of them have been to our knowledge --- there is no more reason to believe that John Lehman actually received more votes than Van Wanggaard, than there is to believe that Scott Walker won his race over Tom Barrett.

Similarly, there is no more reason to believe the other three Republican state Senate were actually won by the Republicans, as is currently being reported based on similarly unverified numbers.

This is a swell opportunity for Democrats to insist that the paper ballots in the District 21 state Senate race --- presuming the chain of custody for them is secure --- be hand-counted publicly, since, no doubt, Republicans, for a change, are also likely to demand the same thing, and justifiably so.

It's a shame, and a continuing embarrassment for the nation, that both parties don't demand "Democracy's Gold Standard" in every election. If publicly counted paper ballots are the Gold Standard for what are believed to be the very closest of elections, shouldn't they be the standard for every election?

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