In a bit of a surprise, assistant US Attorney JoAnne Kloppenburg has filed for a statewide recount of the Wisconsin state Supreme Court election, according to the Government Accountability Board, which oversees the process there.
At the end of the official canvass, Republican Justice David Prosser had a 7,316-vote lead out of 1.5 million ballots cast. This fell just within the 0.5% margin necessary for Kloppenburg to request a recount that would be paid for by the state.
Controversy erupted over the race shortly after Kloppenburg declared victory with an initial 204-vote lead. But in Waukesha County, local clerk Kathy Nickolaus announced two days after the election that she found 15,000 votes from the city of Brookfield, which went strongly for Prosser and swung the election in his favor. The GAB investigated the count in Waukesha County and found no major discrepancies with the local numbers. But given the history of voting problems in Waukesha, some activists wanted a full recount there to provide more clarity.
But this is not just a recount in Waukesha, but statewide. Prosser’s campaign announced on Monday that they would “object” to any recount, though given state laws I’m not sure of the grounds on which they could object. Campaign operatives would not provide any of those grounds on Monday.
However, we’ve learned throughout the past couple months that Wisconsin Republicans are a creative bunch, so I’m sure they’ll think of something.
The Wisconsin state Supreme Court currently has four justices appointed by Republicans and three appointed by Democrats, so this race had the potential of tipping the balance of power on the court. That’s important, with rulings on the legitimacy of the anti-union law and the process by which it passed expected soon. The new Justice’s term doesn’t start until August 1, so this recount should not impact that schedule in any way.
Prior to today, the Kloppenburg campaign would only say they were undecided about a recount. The margin of victory looks pretty high to expect an overturning of the results. However, as an example of the need for election integrity measures and to be vigilant in ensuring that all votes are counted, I don’t see why this shouldn’t be contemplated.
UPDATE: In a press conference, Kloppenburg also called for a special investigator to look into the voting processes in Waukesha County. She added that, regardless of the outcome, a recount “will shine a necessary and appropriate light on an election that seems suspect.” That’s the proper attitude to take.
UPDATE II: More here.