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Wisconsin’s County Clerks Weigh In On Presidential Recount

Iron County Clerk: 'I Believe It's A Waste Of Time'

People recounting ballots
Don Ryan/AP Photo

County workers across Wisconsin are looking at putting in long days to complete a statewide recount of the presidential election, and some are questioning why.

Iron County Clerk Mike Saari didn’t mince words about his thoughts on the recount.

“You’re not going to change a 20,000-vote election, so I don’t know why they’re doing it. But, I believe it’s a waste of time,” Saari said.

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One of the least populated counties in the state, Iron County only has about 3,500 ballots to count. Saari expects the recount to cost around $700, and said they should finish going over the votes in the course of one day, but he noted other counties won’t have it so easy.

The clerk of Wisconsin’s largest county – where about 450,000 people cast ballots – said it will be difficult, but not impossible, to get the presidential recount done on time. Milwaukee County Clerk Joe Czarnezki said dozens of employees will work up to six days a week to help with the recount.

“Well, it’s going to be staff from the county clerk’s office, staff from the Milwaukee County Election Commission, and then we will be utilizing staff from all 19 municipalities in Milwaukee County,” Czarnezki said. “Municipal clerks and their staff, and we’ll be calling in people who were poll workers, who are experienced with handling ballots.”

Czarnezki said the recount will cost Milwaukee County several hundred thousand dollars.

Marathon County Clerk Nan Kottke estimates their recount will cost $113,000 to hand count around 70,000 ballots. She said they’ll need to work extra hours to meet the Dec. 13 deadline.

“We’ll start at nine o’clock, and, at this time, we’re thinking until nine o’clock in the evening and weekends,” Kottke said.

When asked what she thought of the recount, Kottke said statute allows a recount and they will comply.

Jefferson County Clerk Barbara Frank said starting the recount Thursday and ending by Tuesday, Dec. 13, will be difficult. But she said a team of town clerks, poll workers and others will work into the evening and on weekends, if needed.

Frank already decided the county will do a hand recount.

“The machine count has already happened so, to me, just to feed them into the machine again does not seem very logical,” Frank said. “So, I thought we would just prove that the machine count equals what we counted by hand.”

More than 43,000 ballots need to be counted in Jefferson County, Frank said. She estimated the county’s cost for the recount will be about $130,000.

Despite complying, some clerks are still frustrated with claims hacking of voting machines compromised the election’s outcome.

In Iron County, Saari said some people refused to cast ballots using their touch screen voting machines on Election Day due to previous reports of Russian efforts to undermine the election. Third party candidate Jill Stein is trying to force counting ballots by hand in all counties.

Bayfield County Clerk Scott Fibert said the county intends to conduct a hand recount, but he said that will be a hard sell for all counties.

“It seems like that would be hard to demand hand counts when they have no real basis for where their issues are in what happened with the election,” Fibert said. “It would be nice to have a little more specifics instead of just if a person’s got a lot of money, we can just make people do the work and then put the other work aside until we’re done with this.”

Stein has said it’s important to find out whether hacking of voting machines affected the election’s outcome, although there’s been no evidence to suggest any machines were compromised. Each county will decide how to conduct a recount.

Eau Claire County hasn’t decided whether they’ll conduct a recount of their roughly 55,000 ballots by hand, but county clerk Janet Loomis noted that’s the only way to count some ballots.

“The touch screen machine will have to be hand-counted because it can’t recast that ballot,” Loomis said. “There’s no other way to count it.”

Eau Claire County expects their recount to cost up to $25,000 and span 10 days, including Saturdays.