Minimal changes reported in Dane County as presidential recount begins

Minimal changes reported in Dane County as presidential recount begins

MADISON, Wis. - Clerks and tabulators started the massive task Thursday of recounting 2.9 million ballots in the presidential race across the state of Wisconsin.

The recount was requested by Green Party nominee Jill Stein, who claims there are questions about the accuracy of vote totals. Local clerks and state election officials have said there is no evidence of problems.

All 72 counties started the recount process at 9 a.m. Thursday and must complete their work by 8 p.m. Dec. 12.

In Dane County, Clerk Scott McDonell has set up two rooms to count municipalities by hand. Nearly 40 tabulators worked to check and double-check vote totals, sorting absentee and election-day ballots and counting by candidate.

"There's a little bit of sorting through it as you go," McDonell said. "It's been five years since the last recount and there's been some changes with guidance from the Elections Commission, but I think we're up and running pretty well."

The work is happening under the watchful eye of election observers from the presidential campaigns, including Stein's.

"I want to send this all over the world so people can see what a hand count looks like and how easy it is and simple it is to do it," said Stein observer Sheila Parks, who flew in from Massachusetts to watch the process. "Straightforward, and there's no rigging, no hacking, no hanky-panky, no shenanigans, no crimes. Just an honest election counted by real people who live here."

Observers from the Trump campaign were also on hand, pushing back on the notion that there was any hacking of the election involved.

"It's malarkey," Trump attorney John Sweeney said. "I think that this is nothing more than an attempt to disenfranchise the voters of Wisconsin so that they can't be seated. That's what we believe is happening here."

Dane County began Thursday by counting the village of Waunakee and town of Middleton. The end results of those tabulations showed Waunakee's results changing by two votes for the major party candidates, and Middleton changing by three.

"It's good for the public to be able to see that their votes are being counted and everything is as accurate as it could be," town of Middleton Deputy Clerk Sara Ludtke said.

Stein has also requested recounts in Pennsylvania and Michigan. Almost no one expects the recounts to result in a victory for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton over President-elect Donald Trump. Trump won Wisconsin by about 22,000 votes, or less than a percentage point.

Recount in Rock County

In Rock County, more than 76,000 ballots and 19,000 absentee ballots will be recounted.

Election inspectors started feeding stacks of ballots into machines Thursday morning.

Rock County Clerk Lisa Tollefson said she's confident the machines are accurate because last time there was a recount, the only errors were human errors.

She said the people doing the recount are familiar with the process.

"They know what they're looking at when they see the absentee envelope. They know why it was rejected," Tollefson said. "They know what the poll books like like. They know what signatures need to be on the ballots. They already have that background, which makes it a lot easier when they're looking at them."

Rock County will be recounting votes Monday through Saturday, and could add shifts on Sunday if things get behind.

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