Recount as measure of voting irregularities

Update: the recount results are now complete and certified (available here). Waukesha had a total of 87 votes that were changed for Prosser and Kloppenburg resulting in a 0.07% error in the original count (not including the 14,000 vote election night snafu).

As the governor is poised to sign the controversial voter ID bill in Wisconsin, what seems to be lacking on both sides of the discussion is evidence of voting irregularities or fraud. An article from yesterday’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel cites 20 prosecutions of voter fraud from the November 2008 election (none of which involved voting in someone else’s name), but citizens have been presented with little additional evidence of voter fraud.

Of far greater concern for voter confidence is the state’s ability to count votes correctly. Here, we do have evidence from the recount currently underway from the Supreme Court election in April. Certified results from every county except for Waukesha are available here from the Government Accountability Board. Adding up the total number of changed votes for each candidate reveals 1,271 votes that were missed or incorrectly counted in the original vote. Here’s what the distribution of changed votes looks like across the state:

Total changed votes in recount

Obviously, the totals are larger in more highly populated counties. Below is another map showing the percentage of the total votes cast — highlighting counties within the state with the highest proportion of discrepancies. The highest percentage was 0.76% change in Waupaca County — almost every one out of a 100 votes was counted incorrectly.

Percentage of votes changed in recount

If we’re looking to instill greater confidence in the electoral process, shouldn’t we start (as Senator Lena Taylor noted) by getting the count correct? Surely in our age of technology we could do substantially better.

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Author: ericcompas

Eric Compas, Assistant Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in the Geography and Geology Department.

5 thoughts on “Recount as measure of voting irregularities”

  1. Chain of Custody is another major questionable issue here, especially in Waukesha, where many of the bags that the ballots were “secured” in while in a partisan official’s office show issues of post-election tampering (open bags, ripped bags, non-matching serial numbers, “official poll tapes” dated a week before the election was held, etc) The scanners that are used to count the ballots are also relatively easily hackable. There is no confidence whatsoever inspired by the goings on there.

    1. I agree. I’ve seen the photos of the unsealed bags from Waukesha. It seems the Republicans have taken the laundry list of fixes to our voting system (many of which are really needed to restore confidence) and cherry picked the items that would best serve their bottom line.

  2. thanks for this, though I do not think technology is the answer. That’s what got us into this mess. Search Urosevich brothers

    1. There are alternatives to the Urosevichs’ questionable systems, e.g. Open Voting Consortium. My final question was more directed toward accuracy in the systems we use. Would we be okay with these errors (nearly 1% in one county) in our banking system? Stock trading?

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