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Racine County noticed ‘discrepancies’ in vote totals Tuesday, leading to delay of results

Investigation into the incident is now underway

A sign with a US flag that says "vote here" with an arrow is displayed outside on a sidewalk. A parked bus and a pedestrian are nearby.
Beloit residents walk through the rain on their way to vote Tuesday, April 2, 2024, at the Beloit Public Library. Angela Major/WPR

Racine County is investigating what led to “discrepancies” and “inaccuracies” found in partial vote results after the polls closed Tuesday, the problem leading to a long delay in the release of election results.

Final unofficial election results for Racine County were not posted to the county website until after 5 p.m. Wednesday.  For most of Wednesday, the election results webpage on the Racine County website only showed handwritten ward results for municipalities. The county is now investigating what led to the incident.

“Upon posting the first set of partial results, discrepancies were identified in the reports,” a Thursday statement from Racine County said. “The Clerk’s office identified inaccuracies and immediately removed them from the website to maintain the integrity of the electoral process.”

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In an interview with WGTD, Racine County Clerk Wendy Christensen said they noticed issues at the county clerk’s office after the polls closed and poll workers had printed the totals from voting machines. 

“We had some uncontested candidates and the write-in count was very high, so something was not correctly accumulating those totals,” Christensen said.

public test of election equipment
Certified Municipal Clerk Thomas Lund heads up a public test of election equipment in Madison, Wis., ahead of the Aug. 14, 2018 primary. A group of paid staff and volunteers test all the voting machines by running ballots with all voting scenarios for that ballot, and for each candidate, through the machines and making sure they tally them correctly. The machines are not connected to the internet, but send the results via a one-way modem to the county clerk’s office. A scanned version of each ballot is stored on a USB memory card. The testing, open to the public, took place Aug. 6, 2018. Coburn Dukehart/Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Christensen, who has been the county clerk for 15 years, said they noticed the error after they started to put the unofficial voting summary results on the county website. 

“It was all here, at the county level. It was not at the polling places,” Christensen said about the problem. “The polls were already closed. The poll workers had already printed those totals tapes.” 

“I’m not sure what happened with the actual reporting part of our system, so we went to a manual process where we, my team, called all the municipal clerks and said, ‘Give us your numbers off your tapes, the actual physical tapes,’” she added. 

Christensen said the county uses Dominion Voting machines. She said Dominion has been notified of the issue.

“I don’t want to speculate on exactly what it is,” Christensen said.

The election totals will be certified by the Racine County Board of Canvass this Tuesday.

Bryna Godar, a staff attorney with the State Democracy Research Initiative at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Law School, said the delay doesn’t necessarily mean there will be inaccuracies in the final numbers. 

“A delay in reporting results and verifying results doesn’t mean that there’s going to be incorrect results,” Godar said. 

She said there are other additional safeguards that happen after the polls are closed, including the board of canvass certifying results. Those are “checks that they do to make sure that there aren’t any issues in the actual reporting of results,” she said.

However, the incident comes months before the presidential election, which will have far higher voter turnout. In 2020, President Joe Biden won the state by just over 20,000 votes in an election that has spawned disproven allegations of voter fraud.

During a rally in Green Bay Tuesday on his first visit to Wisconsin during this campaign, former President Donald Trump continued to falsely claim he actually won the state.

Former Pres. Donald Trump speaks to supporters Tuesday, April 2, 2024, at Hyatt Regency in Green Bay, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

That history and Wisconsin’s battleground state status will shine a spotlight on the vote count as it comes in in November.

Jon Schultz, who was elected as Burlington’s new mayor Tuesday, said he hopes the county figures out the issue before the presidential election.

“I don’t think this is nefarious, but anything that undermines trust in elections is a problem, so hopefully they figure out the cause,” Schultz said.

“I’ve never seen anything like this, so it’s not like it’s a chronic problem. But of course, anytime there’s any sort of glitch that undermines trust, it’s not good,” he added. 

Godar also said it’s important the county figure out the issue before the November election. She said if there are more issues similar to the one that occurred this week in Racine County, it could lead to a candidate calling for a recount if the race is close.

“The (recall) potential might be higher if there are issues like this, so it’s definitely preferable for the county to figure this out now and make sure that they don’t have similar issues happen in November,” Godar said.