Portage County begins recount of presidential vote
Portage County is beginning a recount of the presidential election vote from the Nov. 8 election, and Portage County Clerk Shirley Simonis and her staff have spent the first part of this week getting ready for it.
“We’re fortunate in Portage County having gone through a Supreme Court recount in 2011,” she said. “A lot of people who worked for that recall are willing to work for this, experienced poll workers and clerks.”
Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein filed a petition in Wisconsin last week calling for the recount and then paid $3.5 million Tuesday, Nov. 29, to cover the cost of the recount. Stein, who received 30,980 votes in Wisconsin, has questioned irregularities and the possibility of hacking as reasons for the recount.
Tuesday a Dane County judge denied her request to have the ballots counted by hand throughout the state.
Simonis said Portage County will begin its recount at 8 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 1, and will work from 8 a.m. to 5 or 6 p.m. or later daily, as needed. She said the process should be completed by Dec. 13, the deadline.
She said Portage County will do a hand recount because it probably will be quicker to do it that way. She said officials in Marathon and Wood counties will probably also do the hand recount because it may be quicker and easier.
While county municipalities use voting machines, those machines utilize paper copies of the ballots, she said.
However, municipalities use different machines, and the variety of those machines mean each would have to be reprogrammed and then tested to count just the presidential votes, then packed up, transported to the counting site and unpacked to run the ballots through. They would then be packed up again and taken back to the municipality.
Simonis will have 16 people working each of the 12 days, all of them experienced poll workers and municipal clerks.
She said she began preparing for the process Sunday, Nov. 27, after learning the recount was likely.
People began working on organizational matters and other things Monday to get ready, alphabetizing information, she said. “I know from experience that this really helps.”
The actual recount was scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Thursday, and she said they would continue working until close to 5 or 6 p.m., depending on when they finished counting a precinct, ward or municipality by then. She said she didn’t want to stop during a partial count.
“We’re charged with trying to get this done by Dec. 12,” she said. “We may have to get a night shift in if we aren’t making fast enough progress. I’ve been through this before. A lot of the people are coming back.”
Although Portage County is conducting the recount, Stevens Point City Clerk John Moe and other municipal clerks also prepared for the process.
Moe said early Monday he contacted Simonis about the recount and began calling poll workers at 8 a.m. to come in by 10 a.m. for preliminary work to prepare the records for the recount. “We want to make this smooth and transparent,” he said. “People have to step up and come in and do it.”
He said about 90 percent of the city’s poll workers offered to help out. The city will provide administrative help, he said, but the county will run the recount.
Moe said he feels the city’s voting machines weren’t tampered with because security is tight, and the machines can only be accessed through the clerk, the treasurer and police.