Since November 11, volunteers and election observers filled canvassing sites around the numerous counties involved in the 68th, 93rd, and the 31st district recounts. Staff from the Republican Party of Wisconsin, Attorneys for the Republican Party, and Attorneys for the Democratic Party were also on-hand to oversee the operation. The 68th, which originally went to Kathy Bernier by 87 votes over incumbent Kristin Dexter, was the first recount to be completed on November 15th, followed closely by the 93rd where Warren Petryk had a slim margin of 72 votes over incumbent Jeff Smith. The 93rd was completed on November 17th and finally the 31st Senate race where Ed Thompson was contesting his loss to Kathleen Vinehout by 439 votes was tallied on Thursday evening. Little to no change was found in the 68th and 93rd recounts overall and in the 31st, Thompson gained more than a handful of votes but it wasn’t near enough to put Vinehout’s victory in jeopardy.
Throughout the six days a total of 20 volunteer clerks, workers, and officials alike scurried from table to table at the Town of Washington Municipal complex on the south side of the city of Eau Claire, working on sorting, sealing, stacking, and poring over ballots ward by ward before sending them through re-calibrated machines and then recording, re-stacking, and resealing them. As directed by Government Accountability Board (GAB) procedures, a Democrat and Republican election observer sat at each table with a balance of Democratic and Republican election workers. First, ballots from each ward in the County were taken out of packages and sorted by ward into stacks. The workers at each table sorted through the stacks one by one, allowing the election observers to look at each ballot and decipher whether or not there are any illegalities. After the stacks were gone over ballot by ballot, they were then taken to voting machines where they were hand placed through to be counted. Each machine was tested and re-calibrated after each ward was sent through, to ensure that there were no machine errors. After the machine counted the ballots, the ballots were removed, re-stacked, repackaged, and sealed. The machine report read the vote tallies and these were inspected by attorneys, poll supervisors, and the final results recorded by the County Clerk. The resealed packages were then recorded with vote count and prepped to be sent down to Madison for the GAB tally when the hand count was over. The same process was repeated for each recount and at times, ballots that had been counted and resealed at the end of the previous recount, had to be reopened and recounted starting with the next.
According to Janet Loomis, Eau Claire County clerk, unofficial totals from Eau Claire County showed Kristin Dexter gained 7 votes during the 68th recount, from 7880 originally to 7887, while Kathy Bernier gained 11 or 7288 to 7299; In the 93rd Jeff Smith led Warren Petryk 10,151 to 9985 after the recount. Originally in Eau Claire County, the official vote total from November 2 was 10,144 to 9975 so Jeff Smith gained 6 votes on the recount and Warren Petryk gained 10. There were overall few or little vote changes in the other counties and municipalities in either district. In the end, Bernier lost a total of 9 votes to Dexter in the 68th, still leading by 78 votes at the end. In the 93rd, overall, Warren Petryk managed to gain an extra 2 votes or a total of 74 according to media outlets and the associated press. In the 31st, Ed Thompson’s vote total was unchanged from the November 2nd total in Eau Claire County while Kathleen Vinehout gained 5 votes, or 11,469 to Thompson’s 9819. Area-wide in the 31st, Clark County saw no vote change, Pepin County showed a gain of 2 for both Vinehout and Thompson, and Buffalo County showed a gain of 4 for Vinehout and a gain of 23 for Thompson. Trempealeau county showed one less vote for each candidate. WKBT LaCrosse reported that Thompson ended up 352 votes total district-wide after the recount, which would have only been a gain of 87 but, again, the results for all of the races are unofficial.
The next step, Loomis says, will be to convene two more canvasses on Monday, one to count any absentee Military and overseas ballots that are still outstanding after the November 2nd election. Friday, November 19, was the deadline for any absentee ballots to arrive at the County offices. In the second canvass, the additional Military and overseas votes will be added to the unofficial totals of the recount. The likelihood of there being a great change in totals after the absentees were counted isn’t great. After the next round of canvassing is completed, the Government Accountability Board will come to each county canvassing site to review the numbers and to certify the results. There is no word at this time as to when the GAB will rule on the certification.