Racine County WI Election Handcount
We, members of Wisconsin Election Integrity, want to handcount votes that were only machine-counted during the November 2016 election and the recount in Racine County, Wisconsin.
We don't expect to change the election's outcome with this handcount of just a few precincts. Instead, we want to call attention to some serious issues with election procedures, which may have disenfranchised hundreds--perhaps more than a thousand--Racine County voters. We want to demonstrate the need for improved procedures, so that any future miscounts will be noticed in time and corrected.
Here's what happened: Even on Election Night last November, Racine County's voting machines were indicating possible miscounts--if anyone had been alert for them. Many polling places reported results that showed a weirdly high number of ballots had been processed as if they contained no vote for president.
Then during the recount, observers noticed that the voting machines were not counting some valid votes. In one small ward, for example, observers could see that 15 votes (4.5%) were missed by the machine in one small batch of 331 ballots! When the observers asked for an accuracy check, county officials refused to hand count even one small precinct. (See video clip for their rude response during the recount.)
In other counties that used the same type of voting machine (the Optech Eagle) and that did check accuracy, miscounts were discovered similar to the ones we suspect in Racine County. We also found out that state and local officials knew that these machines would be unable to count votes from many absentee and mailed-in votes, if they were marked with noncarbonized ink.
And yet Racine County officials approved the computer-tabulated vote totals--twice--without checking!
Because of the miscounts discovered elsewhere, the Wisconsin Elections Commission decided in September 2017 to decertify the Optech Eagle for use in Wisconsin. Racine County has ordered new machines. But county officials have announced no plans to improve the review procedures.
No one can ever guarantee that any voting machine, even new ones, will not miscount our votes. Every computer needs to be checked for accuracy. With this handcount, we intend to demonstrate how easy it would have been to notice and correct these miscounts, if election clerks had practiced some simple auditing procedures before they certified the vote totals. A simple calculation of the undervote rate would have alerted them to problem of the many missed votes.
So why do we need money? Racine County is going to charge us $592 to view the ballots of only four wards. Because it's very important that this audit is transparent (visible to the public), we are also going to rent or buy a document projector, camera stand, and screen (about $100 a day for rental) so that we can videotape the ballots as we count them and project them on the wall for observers to view.
Additionally, we may need a lawyer if we have to wrangle with the county to get an appropriate room and set-up for this venture. If all goes well, we hope to do this hand count sometime in November.
Your support would mean a lot for the integrity of Wisconsin elections!
Speaking for myself, Liz Whitlock, this has been a lonely road so far. It's been hard to get the press interested, despite the importance of accurate election results. Many legislators do not see a problem. Election officials don't want any more work. Ordinary citizens are exhausted with the political strife around the November 2016 election, yet we cannot expect things to change for the better until our elections are truly free and fair. Every other issue in this country hinges on our right to vote and our right to have our votes counted correctly!
What we demonstrate in this hand count in Wisconsin will help dispel the notion that the recount confirmed that our votes were counted accurately. We also hope our bringing attention to this issue will inspire others to do the same. For more information on our planned hand count in Racine County, please see this article by Karen McKim, Coordinator of Wisconsin Election Integrity: http://www.wisconsinelectionintegrity.org/racinecountymiscounts .
We proved exactly what we set out to prove. The big take-away is that we need regular, required audits of every election. Absolutely no audits are required right now in Wisconsin! Audits would have picked up these mistakes. If we can't correct simple mistakes like these, we give COVER to hackers who will be able to make votes "disappear" because they know no one will check. And getting new voting machines in Racine will not solve the problem. Mistakes can come up for a variety of reasons, and if we don't audit, we won't know.
We made videos of every bag of ballots we counted, fifteen in all. They serve three main purposes: they back up our counts if anyone doubts them, they show the evolution of our process over the two days, and they could serve as training videos for anyone else who may want to do a similar handcount. (They might also put you to sleep; they’re not exactly riveting!) The first one is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oihy1dP80XE&t=2s. From there you can see the rest on my YouTube page.
We will be using our remaining GoFundMe funds to spread the word of this handcount. We already have a date set for a meeting in Waukesha in January. Our hope is to get Wisconsin County and Municipal Clerks to see the value in auditing after every election. Thanks again for your most generous support!
Counting went very smoothly. We used a different technique from yesterday since these were larger wards: we divided each bag into “batches,” each a couple inches high, and we stopped to compare numbers after each batch. After all the batches for one bag, we totaled that bag. After all the bags for a ward, we totaled the ward. Each bag was documented by a single video. We will be posting the videos as soon as they are all uploaded. (Uploading videos to YouTube takes forever!)
Tomorrow we will count two larger wards for a total of 2,421 ballots, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Our results will be posted online eventually—the videos of the ballots on YouTube and the statistics and the story on WisconsinElectionIntegrity.org. Thanks again to all our donors! The AV equipment worked perfectly and our paying for access to the ballots has meant that we are able to do our count pretty much on our terms.