Exec Summary WI 2016 Recount Report

I. Purpose
II. Findings
III. Summary

I. Purpose:

Why recount Wisconsin’s Presidential Election?

Whenever computers are used, it is important to have routine verification of the results, to detect any machine malfunction or human error. Unfortunately, Wisconsin’s voting machine audit procedures are insufficient and non-binding.

Voters need to have confidence that their votes are properly counted. Regular, binding audit procedures are the best way to ensure that counting and tabulation. Even the appearance of inaccurate results is enough to dissuade people from voting, so unverified election results are a form of voter suppression.

In addition to this general rule, the circumstances around the 2016 Wisconsin Presidential Election caused even more reason for scrutiny. Three conditions made it necessary to recount Wisconsin’s presidential election.

  • Elections practices that include no routine prudent verification
  • Widespread concern about machine vulnerability from the voter on the street to the highest levels of the US government
  • Close and unexpected election results

II. Findings of the recount across 72 counties in state of Wisconsin:

A. Did Wisconsin’s Recount confirm the results of the Presidential Election?  No
  • Only 51 of 72 counties, representing 53% of total ballots, did hand recounts.

Presiding Judge Bailey-Rihn on the case stated “Again, I think everyone would strongly encourage them to do the hand recount” (http://chg.bz/WIjudge  page 150).


In the 21 counties that did not do a hand recount, ballots were fed through machines supplied and programmed by the same people as on Election Day.

  • Machines are equipped with wireless communications capability, an unnecessary and unacceptable risk.
  • Computer software is privately owned and not subject to inspection.
  • Even the Wisconsin Election Commission tacitly acknowledged the insufficiency of the recount by ordering machine audits in precincts that did not hand recount the ballots.

B. Did Wisconsin’s Recount confirm that votes are counted accurately?  No.
  • 64% of precincts changed vote totals in the recount.
  • Over 17,000 votes were changed as a result of the recount.
  • It showed that obvious, easily detected errors are included in election results. For example, 440 votes from one Oneida County town were left out of the original results, making it look like half the voters had not cast a vote for president. In the City of Milwaukee, 246 votes from one polling place were omitted when results were first certified.
  • Voting machines are unable to read voter intent marked in predictable ways, leading to problems, such as the omission of 23.9% of the absentee votes from the City of Marinette’s original certified election results.
  • It revealed highly unreliable counting of write-in votes, so much so that 15.7% of the votes cast for Evan McMullin statewide were missed in Election-Night counting.
  • It discovered uncounted absentee ballots and inconsistent practices in determining legitimacy of absentee ballots.
  • It revealed poor voting machine security, such as unnoticed missing seals on St. Croix County machines.
  • It discovered hundreds of absentee ballots left in their envelopes on Election Day uncounted.

Municipal and county clerks have testified that recounts are the only opportunity most elections workers ever get to check their work.

III. Summary

We know that the vast majority of election workers, from the Election Day poll workers to the municipal and county clerks, perform their duties conscientiously and diligently. Nonetheless, mistakes happen. Unfortunately, Wisconsin’s laws and practices, both on Election Day and during the recount, do not do enough to uncover and reconcile those errors.

As evidenced above, these discoveries show the need for paper ballots filled out by the voter, binding machine audits after every election, and recount laws that require hand tabulation. Election Day and recount procedures all require better oversight and clarification. Our citizens deserve no less, and we implore our state legislators and county and municipal clerks to act promptly to remedy this situation.

Read our Press Release