RACINE — State Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, has requested a recount following the results of the June 5 recall election.
“The recount I am requesting on behalf of more than 35,000 supporters has a simple philosophy behind it — ‘trust but verify,’” Wanggaard said in a press release issued Friday morning. “I hope that a trusted and verified result of the election will finally allow us to move forward.”
The recount will begin at 9 a.m. Wednesday, said Michael Haas, a staff attorney with the Government Accountability Board.
In last week’s election, Wanggaard’s challenger former state Sen. John Lehman, D-Racine, defeated Wanggaard by 834 votes, according to canvass results. Lehman’s lead on election night had originally been smaller, but it increased by 55 votes after the county’s canvass Tuesday where the county clerk tallied all county votes.
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Lehman had 36,351 votes to Wanggaard’s 35,517 votes, according to the county’s canvass. That is a difference of 1.12 percent of the votes.
Attempts to speak with Wanggaard were unsuccessful Friday.
Following Wanggaard’s announcement Friday, Lehman expressed his confidence in winning the election at a press conference at the Democratic Party of Racine County’s Downtown headquarters, 606 Sixth St.
“We think the vote totals will hold,” Lehman said. He said he was a little surprised Wanggaard requested the recount.
“We feel the elections were fairly conducted. If you recall by looking at the 21st Senate District, Scott Walker won in that district. There were certainly a lot of votes counted on the Republican side as well as the Democrat side,” Lehman said. “We have a lot of confidence in the various municipalities and their clerks and the county with the canvass.”
Also, Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chairman Mike Tate said in a press release, “It is shameful in this era of deficit crisis that Van Wanggaard is willing to waste taxpayer money in a desperate effort to cling to political power. It is also shameful that Wanggaard has resorted to raising the specter of fraud, when the fact is that the voters of his district rejected him in a hard-fought, but fair, contest.”
County Clerk Wendy Christensen has not been able to provide a total cost estimate for a recount. But per state law, Wanggaard has to pay $685 for the recount based on the number of voting wards he requests the recount in. Haas said Friday afternoon that Wanggaard had paid the filing fee.
In Wanggaard’s press release, he said from the moment election results were announced, he had dozens of people demanding a recount immediately.
But Wanggaard said, “I have never done something just because it was demanded of me … Over the past week, I have thought long and hard about what is in the best interests of the 21st Senate District.”
One of the voters wanting a recount reminded him of an election involving his late friend, Racine County Circuit Court Judge Dennis Barry, Wanggaard said.
“Judge Barry was once down on election night by 700‐some votes, and asked for a recount. In the end, Judge Barry won by more than 90 votes. I had forgotten that story about my friend,” Wanggaard said.
If Lehman is officially declared the winner of the 21st Senate District, Democrats will gain control of the state Senate and have a 17-16 majority.
But Wanggaard said in the news release, “I do not seek a recount as a delaying tactic … This is not about maintaining power or denying Democrats power. There are no ‘secret plans’ for a special legislative session during this recount, and no votes scheduled.”
He said a number of voters believe their votes were disenfranchised on election night and want a recount. Also with the absence of voter ID requirements, Wanggaard said many people are suspicious of election results.
Since the recall election, Republicans have repeatedly made allegations of irregularities at Racine polls and the Racine County Sheriff’s Office is investigating claims of voter fraud that allegedly took place in the city during the recall.
“Bitterness and division will only grow if the results are not recounted,” said Wanggaard.
About the recount process
The recount will begin at 9 a.m. Wednesday in the first floor conference room in the south wing of the Racine County Courthouse, 730 Wisconsin Ave.
The GAB is scheduled to issue the official recount order Monday, requiring the recount to begin at 9 a.m. Wednesday, said Michael Haas, a staff attorney with the Government Accountability Board. The county has until July 2, at the latest, to complete the recount, Haas said.
After the recount is finished, candidates have five business days to appeal results in the Racine County Circuit Court, Haas said. As part of the recount, the board of canvass will examine all ballots, poll lists, absentee ballot envelopes, and ballot containers, among other things, Haas said. The county’s last recount, following this year’s April 3 judicial race between Tim Boyle and Mark Nielsen, took eight days with the board not convening on Sunday.