By Brandi Makuski
Local municipal clerks are preparing for the first presidential election recount in the history of Wisconsin.
Spearheaded by Green Party candidate Jill Stein, the recount was prompted by what Stein said were “irregularities observed in Wisconsin.” President-elect Donald Trump won the state by one of his narrowest wins — about 22,000 votes.
The recount kicks off Thursday.
Portage Co. Clerk Shirley Simonis said her office has been busy preparing for the recount since it was filed last week. Simonis said the county’s canvas board is in the process of hiring temporary help — “tabulators,” she calls them — from a pool of experienced poll workers and former municipal clerks.
“There’s no way we can count 38,000 ballots by ourselves,” Simonis said, “so that’s what the tabulators will help us do.”
The team of tabulators will have several duties, Simonis said. Along with reconciling and comparing poll books, they must also review absentee ballots and applications, affidavit envelopes and verifying the ballot bags weren’t tampered with.
Then, she said, comes the process of physically recounting every single ballot cast in Portage County. According to county records, 38,718 of the county’s 56,733 eligible voters participated in the Nov. election.
The process will be a public one, Simonis said, and begins at 8 AM on Dec. 1.
“I’m going to make an analysis after the first four or five days to see where we are, to see if we need to look at [adding] a night shift of some type,” she said.
Stevens Point City Clerk John Moe said his office, like all municipal clerk offices in the county, have been providing information as Simonis has requested it.
“We’ve actually already brought in a handful of workers, because Shirley requested documents from our office, so a lot of our work right now is just making sure everything is ready to go for when the process gets started on Thursday,” Moe said on Monday.
Part of the work includes alphabetizing documents for each district and ward in the city.
“It’s an interesting situation, because we’d just gotten done with everything for the election, and thought we could breathe a sigh of relief that it was over,” Moe added. “But we want this to go as smoothly and efficiently as possible, so we’ll be providing support and anything Shirley [Simonis] needs from us.”
Ballot counting is scheduled to occur in Conference Rooms 1 and 2 at the Portage Co. Annex, 1462 Strongs Ave., beginning Dec. 1 from 8 AM to 6 PM, and 9 AM to 6 PM thereafter, unless a night shift is added, according to Simonis. The recount must be complete by Dec. 13, she said.
The process is open to the public, but citizens are asked to remain respectful.