Legislators Debate Changes To Wisconsin’s Recount Laws

Proposal Would Limit Candidates' Ability To File Recount Request

Recounting ballots
Morry Gash/AP Photo

Lawmakers clashed in the Capitol on Wednesday over a proposal to limit election recounts in Wisconsin.

The proposed law would allow only second place finishers within 1 percent or less of the total number of votes to request a recount.

Those proposed rules would have prevented last year’s presidential recount in Wisconsin, requested by Green Party candidate Jill Stein. Stein finished fourth in Wisconsin’s presidential election, with about 1 percent of the vote.

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Sen. Devin LeMahieu, one of the bill’s sponsors, argued the Stein campaign used the recount to raise money. He said his proposal would help prevent such “unnecessary” recounts.

“We need to make sure that parties on both sides aren’t using the ability of current law to use Wisconsin’s election results as a political tool,” LeMahieu said.

Rep. Ron Tusler, R-Harrison, another sponsor of the plan, argued recounts are expensive and time-consuming for clerks.

Brown County Clerk Sandy Juno said her office had to turn away constituents seeking visa applications during the recount, because staff didn’t have time to process their requests while conducting the retallying.

“We have to think about, is this really where you want our time and energy spent,” Juno said.

Opponents to the measure argued recounts help assure voters of the integrity of the elections process and that anyone should be able to request a recount.

“I think it’s very important that the public appreciate the fact that our counting system is accurate,” said Sen. Mark Miller, D-Monona.

The proposal will be up for a vote in the state Senate’s elections committee later this legislative session. It has yet to be heard in an Assembly committee.