Kloppenburg Requests Recount

Wisconsin Assistant Attorney General JoAnne Kloppenburg has requested a recount in her race against Supreme Court Justice David Prosser. Citing the reasons for the recount, according to TPM:

“A recount may change the outcome of this election, or it may confirm it. But when it is done, recount will have shed necessary and appropriate light on an election that right now seems to so many people to be suspect.”

She also added: “If there is doubt, we must remove it. If there was misconduct, we must hold those who perpetrated it accountable.”

Prosser leads by 7,316 votes, or 0.488%, within the 0.5% margin that entitles Kloppenburg to request a recount at state and local government expense.

This may be the best thing to quell suspicions of foul play in the election.

About Mr. Universe

Mr. Universe is a musician/songwriter and an ex-patriot of the south. He currently lives and teaches at a University in the Pacific Northwest. He is a long distance hiker who has hiked the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail. He is also an author and woodworker. An outspoken political voice, he takes a decidedly liberal stance in politics.
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53 Responses to Kloppenburg Requests Recount

  1. WA7th says:

    What suspicions of foul play in the election? What reasonable suspicions, I mean. The only one I heard about was the math error that was caught by the system designed to catch math errors.

    Fine that she requested a recount that was within her right to request at state expense. Good for her and Wisconsin. Using this recount as an opportunity to score political points in the media, however, would be a mistake.

  2. Yeah, it looked like an honest mistake to me. Suspicious in its timing, and maybe just a little too convenient, but that’s how random events look to the human mind. We are built to look for patterns and causal relationships, and that force is so powerful that we often see them in places where they don’t exist.

    It’s the source of superstition and conspiracy theories.

  3. teevagirl says:

    Not only timely .. With a history of prior mistakes. Let us not forget a prior employee of he would be judge. .I don’t feel comfortable with the I FOUND ALL THESE BALLOTS…I wonder if a recall would change anything? Our recall got us THE TERMINATOR….Be very careful on your recalls.

  4. Mr. Universe says:

    Well suspicious that the Waukesha County clerk found 14,000 votes 24 hours after the results were in and that those votes swung the election the other direction in a normally unheard of election driven by anti-Gov-Walker union busting sentiment where 100,000 or more people protested and now there are six Republican Senators being recalled. You mean that kind of suspicion?

    Yeah, that kind of suspicion.

  5. parksie555 says:

    More wasting of taxpayer dollars. But Dems, especially liberal ones, are good for that.

  6. WA7th says:

    found 14,000 votes 24 hours after the results were in

    Hmmmm. After the results were in to whom? Anyone who matters legally, or merely in to those who can give a lame story some attractive legs? If I had made a mistake like that more than once, and was still sufficiently confident of being re-elected in spite of it (it’s an elected office in my county), I would be very tempted to tell the media something like,

    “With all due respect, our process has public oversight and triple redundant safegaurds against missing or extra ballots in the count. The process worked precisely as it should have. Trying to improvise ad hoc live multimedia oversight on top of that tends to interfere with the process rather than complement it. Until our written procedures require otherwise, you will get our future county results when the state registrar’s office releases them to you.”

    The only thing I find remarkable is that the official made the blunder at the very moment the spotlight was on her, making any reasonable person wonder how sloppy she is when everyone isn’t looking. It was remarkable sloppiness under pressure while the world was watching, but not (yet) suspiciously remarkable sloppiness.

  7. Mr. Universe says:


    Speaking of Terminator, you know what today is (April 21st 2011)?

  8. Max aka Birdpilot says:

    More wasting of taxpayer dollars. But Dems, especially liberal ones, are good for that.

    parksie, I guess you’ve forgotten Norm Coleman’s recount, appeal, court challenge , that not only cost a pot full, but kept the taxpayers of Minnesota without representation for six months.

    Let’s adjust your quote: “More wasting of taxpayer dollars. But Republicans, especially conservative ones, are good for that.”

    Damn, that road goes BOTH ways!

  9. shortchain says:


    Parksie also forgot the Minnesota GOP’s encore performance with Tom Emmer, just this last year. There was no significant chance the result could be overturned — yet the MN GOP tried — and almost managed — to prolong the recount long enough to pass a right-wing agenda using a rump governor and a hurriedly-seated GOP legislature.

    Odd how these prominent examples of the GOP wasting taxpayer’s money don’t appear to modify some people’s fixed opinion that the “liberals” waste money. (Note: there isn’t a “liberal party”. There is, in this country, a party composed largely of wealthy conservatives — and then there is the Republican party, but the composition of the current GOP just depresses me to think about.)

  10. Max aka Birdpilot says:


    Just another in a long string of examples of selective recall.

  11. Max aka Birdpilot says:

    I didn’t include Joe Miller either, but that was a case of GOP vs GOP.

    I guess parksie doesn’t even count THOSE.

  12. mclever says:

    Oh no! Skynet begins its attack today!

    (Yeah for the Sarah Connor Chronicles reference, Mr. U.)


    To main the topic of this thread, I’m happy that Kloppenburg is requesting a recount, as is within her rights to do. I doubt it will change the result, but confidence and trust in election results are part of what keep democracy strong. It’s good to reduce the doubt where possible.

    While I agree that timing of the sudden “finding” of 14000 votes that just happen to flip the result seems fishy at first, I don’t think there’s a conspiracy here. I think we have an incompetent election official who should have been fired eons ago who just happened to have her mistake caught while everyone was watching.

  13. parksie555 says:

    Chain, the Franken campaign trailed after the original count but the margin was close enough to trigger an automatic recount. This was not a Coleman challenge. And after significant disagreement over contested absentee ballots – a major source of possible election fraud – Coleman filed an election challenge, and then a Minn Supremes challenge. His campaign paid for his representation in both cases, and ended up paying legal costs as well.

    Not even close to the situation in Wisconsin, where most observers think there is little chance to overturn the result. The margin in this race is nearly two orders of magnitude larger than that in the Minn race.

    Nice try though.

    And let’s not even talk about the estimated six million or so taxpayer dollars to police and clean up the Wisconsin Capitol building after the union-backed dirty hippies tried to implement mob rule there.

  14. maxakabirdpilot says:

    “It’s the same thing, only different!”

    It always is.

  15. filistro says:

    @parksie… after the union-backed dirty hippies tried to implement mob rule there.

    Why have you become so nasty lately?

    Has your dog started peeing on the carpet?… or are you unsettled by the massive anti-Republican, anti-authoritarian, anti-Ryan, anti-birther, anti-corporatist backlash that’s suddenly begun sweeping across the country?

  16. maxakabirdpilot says:

    “– a major source of possible election fraud – “

    Another VERY common GOP/rightwing meme.

    parksie, since you brought it up, would you please list a half-dozen or so verifiable, documented instances of “election fraud” in ANY state-wide or national elections over the, say last 40 years? Particular attention may be given to those that influenced the final outcome. If it’s THAT BIG OF AN ISSUE, there should be PLENTY for you to cite.

    Thank you.

  17. parksie555 says:

    Well, I’ve got to go back 50 years for this one, but how about the infamous “late returns from Cook County” in the ’60 presidential election. Three were actually sent to jail on charges of election fraud, and 677 were indicted before a Daley crony judge threw out the indictments.

    How about the 1997 Miami mayoral race?

    How about the whole concept of motor-voters?

    Hell, supposedly the Father of Our Country ensured his election to the Virginia House in 1758 by buying whiskey for his neighbors.

    Part of the reason fraud is so difficult to detect is Democrats consistently refuse to back policies as simple as requiring a photo ID to vote.

    There is fraud and error in every election. The main reason it’s not that big of an issue is that most races are not close enough for it to make a difference.

  18. parksie555 says:

    BTW if any of you 538er’s are boardgamers I highly recommend this game:


    Great strategy game with a nice historical flavor.

  19. maxakabirdpilot says:


    So you are telling us that there are NO state-wide or national elections there have documented evidence of election fraud and ABSOLUTELY NONE where the outcome was influenced in the past FORTY YEARS? Ya gotta go back OVER 50 YEARS to find sumpin’ above the city level?

    Help us out here. I truly would be on your side on this one. We have to be able to trust elections! But, so far, you, and to be fair, the whole rightwing establishment, have made this out to be a serious issue. So surely there must be a whole slew of examples that caused this belief for so many.

    And I seriously thank you for your effort, win or lose. Good man! Should you ever call me out on an assertion I should make, I promise to take your objection with the same seriousness and reciprocate.

    Otherwise, we may have to assume that “election fraud” is no more than a strawman, to be trotted out whenever convenient for all those good folks to justify a close or losing election.

    Please, sir, I ask you in all seriousness, to justify the meme with examples, or state publicly that is is no more than a false premise.


  20. parksie555 says:

    Maxie, first of all, I never made election fraud out to be a major issue in my post.

    I merely was pointing out why Coleman challenged the recount results in the Minnesota Senate race. If you can’t see the potential for abuse in absentee ballots you are being willfully obtuse.

    And I notice that with your quick change of topic you neatly sidestepped the fact that I completely eviscerated your argument that the Coleman/Franken recount was equivalent to the Kloppenburg/Prosser recount with regards to wasting taxpayer dollars.

    Seems to me that you are the one using straw as a building material in this case.

    Feel free to present a real rebuttal to my point about Coleman/Franken v. Kloppenburg/Prosser at any time.

  21. maxakabirdpilot says:


    Kloppenburg is following state law in requesting a recount. State law says the state shall absorb the costs where the difference is less than 0.5% of the vote and that the candidate shall if the difference is larger than 0.5%. Miller was much larger than that difference. Was Emmer wasting taxpayer money when challenging in a race similarly close as Kloppenberg?

    I did not rebut that particular assertion of yours as you made a valid point, which you directed at shortchain, not me. Did YOU respond to sc’s example of Tom Emmer?

    Analogies are seldom exact. My issue with the Coleman/Franken debacle was that it denied the taxpayers of the state Senate representation for about six months. In the case of Joe Miller, that I also cited, I again hold to be a waste of taxpayer money. In BOTH the Coleman AND Miller examples, there are more than just the direct legal costs. There are also the lost opportunity costs of the judicial system being tied up with the cases, when they could have been on to other issues. In BOTH cases, a number of challenges were considered frivolous. Even Miller’s own attorney’s admitted so. Opportunity costs wasted are as valid as direct costs as taxpayer money is involved in both.

    YOU, good sir, raised the issue of election fraud! In fact, in your rebuttal, your EXACT QUOTE was: “Part of the reason fraud is so difficult to detect is Democrats consistently refuse to back policies as simple as requiring a photo ID to vote.
    There is fraud and error in every election. The main reason it’s not that big of an issue is that most races are not close enough for it to make a difference.

    New Black Panther Party

    Right wing folks constantly raise the issue of fraud. Now that YOU did so, I am simply asking for some evidence that it truly IS a big enough issue to be of concern.

    So far, based on your own research, it does NOT! Maybe it would be best to leave THAT matter off the table.

  22. mostlyilurk says:

    Also, I thought that I read or heard that the person who found the extra Prosser votes was involved in a prior investigation of election irregularities? Does anyone know anything about that?

  23. shortchain says:


    a) it was Max, not me, that mentioned Coleman.

    b) when you say “Chain, the Franken campaign trailed after the original count but the margin was close enough to trigger an automatic recount. This was not a Coleman challenge.”

    You conveniently forgot that, when Coleman led, he came out and said that Franken should concede in order to spare the state the expense of the recount. But then, when he lost, he dragged the state through the process. Oh, and he paid for his expenses — but he never reimbursed the state for all the expenses of defending against his spurious challenge!

    c) “And let’s not even talk about the estimated six million or so taxpayer dollars to police and clean up the Wisconsin Capitol building after the union-backed dirty hippies tried to implement mob rule there.”

    Except that the “estimate” is completely made up, bogus, garbage, and false. As such a notable journalistic organization as the Daily Show has demonstrated.

    I’m with filistro. Did your dog bite you and run off with a Democrat? You are growing ever more unreasonable in your comments.

  24. parksie555 says:

    NO. The Coleman recount was mandatory. Required by state law.

    The Wisconsin recount is NOT automatic. It is an option, not required in this case. In this case it was requested by Kloppenburg. It must be paid for by the state due to the closeness of the election – just inside the 1/2 % margin.

    I stand by my original point. Kloppenburg is ordering an unnecessary recount that nearly all observers believe will not change the result of the election, and the taxpayers of Wisconsin are paying for her vanity.

    Minn Senate election was closer by two orders of magnitude – so any irregularities, discrepancies, etc. had a much larger effect.

    You are wrong.

  25. parksie555 says:

    I think my dog IS a Democrat, BTW. He is not too bright, relies on others to clean up his messes, and expects handouts twice daily.

  26. dcpetterson says:

    NO. The Coleman recount was mandatory. Required by state law.

    In the first couple of days after the election, Colman was ahead by a couple of votes, until the final official count came in. During that time, Coleman stated that if he had been behind, he would have had the good graces to concede so as to avoid the need for a recount. After the official totals came in and revealed Franken to be ahead, of course, Coleman forgot his statement.

    A recount is not ever “mandatory,” because one of the contestants can concede. In which case, no recount is done. A recount happened only because Coleman went back on his word and refused to concede.

  27. Mr. Universe says:


    Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus was granted immunity for testifying about her role in the Republican Caucus’ alleged use of tax dollars to secretly run campaigns.

    She has also been reprimanded for refusing to update the computers system that’s being used statewide and instead still keeps data on antiquated personal computers.

    Katherine Harris anyone?

  28. maxakabirdpilot says:


    I won’t pile on on the whole MN and WI thing. Was NOT my dog in THAT hunt, anyway. sc and dc are engaging with you and you can contend with their rebuttals, producing good, verifiable facts to answer.

    BUT, it WAS YOU who mentioned “election fraud”. In answer to my challenge, you were able to produce 50+ year old stuff and a 15 year old mayor’s race, when I asked for something within the last 40 years (has kind of a Biblical ring to the number) in either state-wide or national elections.

    You have not answered with any reasonableness the rebuttal to your “election fraud” meme. Please, I again kindly ask that you either produce documented proof that there has been “election fraud”, particularly where it impacted the final outcome, of a state-wide or national election in the time frame specified, or please admit that the whole “election fraud” meme, as consistently cited, is nothing but a strawman, as there is ZERO evidence that such has happened with most any of our voting lifetimes.

    Thank you.

  29. shortchain says:


    If the recount is unnecessary, then why is it allowed for under law? Also, given the irregularities in the election, it is hardly “vanity” to ask for a recount. It’s better to review the election than let uncertainty about the results linger, especially with a judicial election, wouldn’t you say?

    Let us also recall that, by delaying the election of Franken, the GOP (who paid for Coleman’s legal fees until late in the process, BTW) denied the Democrats a filibuster-proof majority for months. And I had no problem with the Emmer recount until they started talking about legal challenges to delay the process and give Tiny Tim the opportunity to remain governor with a GOP majority in both houses.

  30. Mr. Universe says:

    I think my dog IS a Democrat, BTW. He is not too bright, relies on others to clean up his messes, and expects handouts twice daily.

    Substitute tax cut for handouts and you’re pretty much described my Republican cat.

    parksie, I should think you’d welcome a recount to prove the election was clean and that Ms. Nickolaus was merely incompetent and not criminal.

  31. parksie555 says:

    Chain, Maxie, DC, my last words on the subject:

    If you don’t think there are vote counting errors and irregularities in every election, you are hopelessly naive. Don’t believe me – there are plenty of books on the subject.

    However in most races the margin of victory is significantly larger than the amount of votes affected by miscounting, irregularities, etc. The Coleman/Franken race was an exception to the rule. A recount was clearly in order in that race.

    The Wisconsin recount is unecessary because it is clear that the Kloppenburg defeat was well outside of these margins. I have yet to see a single reputable source that thinks that there is any chance that this recount will change the results. As I said above, the difference between the closeness of the two races is some two orders of magnitude.

    BTW, please point out the “irregularities” in the race.

  32. shortchain says:


    So there are plenty of irregularities in every election — but you can’t point to any documented, proven cases newer than 15 years ago in Miami, Florida (whose politics are a snake-pit compared even to the rest of Florida).

    And you continue to ignore the fact that Coleman, when he led, said Franken should concede, but, when he trailed, refused to consider conceding and even went to court. I guess you are comfortable with hypocrisy.

    Finally, if you don’t see the irregularities involved in the Wisconsin race, I guess nobody can make you notice.

  33. Mr. Universe says:

    The Wisconsin recount is unecessary because it is clear that the Kloppenburg defeat was well outside of these margins.

    It is far from clear that the votes were counted properly. Hence the recount to put the suspicion of impropriety to rest.

  34. dcpetterson says:

    parksie, no one argued that there aren’t minor irregularities in every election. A couple of people, however, took issue with the clearly baseless Republican meme that there is some kind of widespread and common Democratic-sponsored or Democratic-leaning vote fraud — or indeed, that there is any sort of meaningful vote fraud in America at all. You are welcome to agree that there has been no evidence whatever of meaningful voter fraud in any state or Federal election in the last, say, 40 years, and to step away from the obviously absurd Republican complaints about it.

    As for the current Wisconsin race — the recount will reveal whether there were any significant irregularities. The contest is within the margin (0.5%) that the State of Wisconsin views as reasonable to conduct a recount at State expense, for precisely this purpose. It seems best and most reasonable to let the process play out.

  35. Max aka Birdpilot says:

    I take his “last words on the subject”, wherein he admits to “vote counting errors and irregularities in every election” and establishes NO documented cases of actual fraud as a tacit admission by parksie that it is a truism that “election fraud” as a meme consistently put forth by the right is false.

    Thank you, parksie. You at least recognize the failure of a favorite right wing chant. I congratulate you.

  36. drfunguy says:

    Nevada US Senator (R) John Ensign is reportedly resigning his seat.

  37. mclever says:

    Ensign resigns!? Whoa.

  38. filistro says:

    @mac.. no kidding. The Cornerites are all over the Ensign thing, pointing out what a tough spot it is for Sandoval, who will have to appoint Ensign’s successor. Because whoever he appoints will inevitably become the incumbent, which will tick off everybody who was planning to run for the seat and put all factions at each other’s throats again. So a divided NV Republican party (still smarting over the Sharron Angle debacle) will be even more divided going into the next Senatorial race.

    Meanwhile, Chris Rock weighs in on the Donald Trump putative presidential run:

    “I won’t vote for him. I’m afraid he’ll leave us for a younger, prettier country.”

  39. Mr. Universe says:

    Hmmm, Just as Berkley announces her candidacy. Coinkydink?

    Either Ensign is trying to give Heller a leg up on the election or the Senate ethics committee found or was about to find something big. That investigation will subsequently be dropped when Ensign makes it official.

  40. parksie555 says:

    Milwaukee Journal Sentinel agrees with Parksie…


    Sorry, libs. You lost. Get over it.

  41. dcpetterson says:

    parksie, I’m not sure I understand what you think is proven by an opinion piece.

    You held two major positions in the discussion on this thread: 1) that “voter fraud” is a problem in America today, and 2) that the Wisconsin recount shouldn’t go forward. The piece you linked to didn’t mention your first position, and agreed with you on the second. Which merely implies there is at least one other person in the world who holds the same opinion you do (personally, I suspect there is more than one such).

    How does this mean anyone has “lost” something in the current discussion?

  42. Max aka Birdpilot says:


    Quit bring an ass. “Sorry, libs. You lost. Get over it.”

    There is no one here saying Kloppenburg won. Just look back over this thread, it’s just not there. The Wisconsin legislature, not we “libs”, decided that an election with less than a 0.5% difference was deserving of a state-paid recount, because of the closeness of that difference!!!

    YOU have publicly stated, within this thread, that “all elections have errors and irregularities”. If you are so sure of the results of the election, you should have no problem with a legal recount, as outlined by Wisconsin law. The cost should be as irrelevant as paying the full-time salary of a fireman, instead of just the time he’s actually fighting a fire, despite the budget issues in the state.

    From your standpoint, it will remove the doubts created by the idiot in Waukesha County (not “libs”), already demonstrated as questionable in her judgement, that her actions were, in fact, only error.

    Get over it!

  43. parksie555 says:

    NO. I never said that voter fraud is a significant problem in America today. I said it was possibly a problem in an extremely close election such as the Minnesota Senate election in 2008.

    I merely said that it was a reasonable cause to contest a recount in an extremely close election (read as, 0.005% difference in vote totals vs 0.5% total) when Chain claimed that Kloppenburg’s actions were no different from Coleman’s with regards to wasting taxpayer dollars.

    I think it is pretty clear that there is a big difference numerically between the closeness of the Wisconsin race and the Minnesota race.

    Given this difference it is highly improbable that voter fraud/counting errors will change the results of the Wisconsin race. It was much more plausible that the results of the Minnesota race may have been affected by irregularities.

    Thus my original point that this is a waste of taxpayer dollars. Yes, it falls within the limits of where the state is willing to pay the cost of the recount, but just barely.

    But Dems have already shown they don’t have a particular problem spending other people’s money for foolish purposes, and aren’t particularly worried about deficit spending, so I guess Kloppenburg’s actions are no surprise.

  44. parksie, the margin of error in modern voting systems is about a half percent. This is why they have state funded recounts below that threshold.

    In point of fact, any election where the count is below that threshold is a tie. We just kid ourselves that it isn’t.

  45. Max aka Birdpilot says:


    I believe parksie is just ignoring the percentage factor in favor of the actual vote count. 7500 votes sounds like a large spread, so there has to be no way that a recount can show the results be off by that many.

    Let’s say we had an election with 201 voters and the results were 101-100. Now THAT sounds CLOSE! If the recount showed that only ONE vote was miscounted, the results would go for the other candidate! And most anyone would agree that there is, given human fallibility, the vote count could be off by 1 vote.

    But lets see, 1/201 = 0.498%. Hey, THAT’S a bigger number than the results of the WI SC election!

    Now, let.s change from raw numbers to percentages and rewrite those last two sentences.

    f the recount showed that only ONE-HALF of 1 percent was miscounted, the results would go for the other candidate! And most anyone would agree that there is, given human fallibility, the vote count could be off by 1/2 of 1 percent.

    Regretfully, parksie has no real point to be made. as shown in his last two comments, he only uses the issue to end his comment with a dig against those on the other end of the political spectrum.

    It’s a shame.

  46. parksie555 says:

    MWeiss – Your .5% figure sounds awfully high. Maybe for handwritten ballots/etc. but I can’t believe a machine based voting system has this high of an error rate. Possibly for an older punchcard system (hanging chad, anyone?) but not for a fully electronic voting system.

    If you have a source for this figure I’d be curious to read more about it. I thought I read somewhere in a discussion of the WI recount that typical numbers for change in totals following recent recounts were much lower, on the order of a tenth of a percent.

    Maxie – You are making no sense. Of course I am looking at percentages and not absolute vote totals. In case you were wondering, the two order of magnitude difference in the Minn Senate and WI Supreme Court races DID refer to the percentage difference, not to the total vote difference.

    Now do you understand why there is no comparison between the MN race and the WI race? Or are you going to argue some more and continue digging yourself into a deeper logical hole?

  47. parksie,
    I thought 1/2% was too high when I first heard about it, too. I forget the source now (this was something I learned about 5 years ago), so I can’t send you to it without doing a ton of work. But what I recall was that that it’s much higher for punched cards (like 2+%).

    Even fully electronic systems have error rates above 1/2%, because of the various mechanisms by which vote tallies are transmitted and accumulated. This is one reason that a paper trail along with the electronic system is so important. Part of the problem with many of the electronic touch screen systems is that the measurable error is zero only because they have no paper trail and thus no mechanism by which the vote tally can be independently verified. In other words, the error isn’t zero; it’s just thrown out. A case of “move along, there’s nothing to see here.”

    typical numbers for change in totals following recent recounts were much lower, on the order of a tenth of a percent

    Ahh, here’s where you need to think from a statistical perspective. The actual error in an election will fit some sort of bell curve. You’re looking at a relatively small sample of recounts, and one would expect most of them to have ~0.1-0.2% error. But with any bell curve, there are outliers. So how certain do we need to be? 90%? 95%? 99%? If we’re willing to be less certain, then we can have smaller margins before recounting.

    The 0.5% number is useful for most electronic voting systems because you end up with 95% certainty that the outcome will not change, if I recall correctly.

  48. parksie555 says:

    Interesting point. MWeiss. Do you remember how they generated the 0.5% figure? Was it based on historical recount studies?

    It is fascinating when you get down to these kinds of statistical analyses.

    What’s more accurate – hand recount and tallying of a machine generated paper audit trail or the machines internal calculations/reporting?

    Is a hand recount a valid test of the accuracy of an electronic system?

    My guess would be the hand recount is more prone to error than the original electronic count. Provided internal calculations are programmed correctly it’s hard for me to see the source of inaccuracy in a fully electronic system.

    Of course assuming no nefarious Diebold programmers are trying to steal elections for those nasty old Republicans :).

    I can see the value of a hand recount of punch-type ballots for mechanical or optical systems but would think a fully electronic system would have very little room for error.

    But unfortunately as far as I know most statewide elections are carried out across multiple systems so there is always human intervention in the tallying/reporting process.

    I’d wager this is where most of the error comes in, as you said.

    Fascinating stuff.

  49. Max aka Birdpilot says:


    Thank you for not including any ideological digs in the last comment.

    I have not compared the WI and MN elections in reference to any magnitude of the difference. Not sure why you keep referring back to that. That was between you, dc and shortchain. I understand the point you’re trying to make there. OK?

    Michael is doing an excellent job of the statistics (as always) behind the margins of error and the confidence level one would like to have. I can’t add more for you.

    If you have a problem with the recount, I suggest that you move to WI, get elected to the Legislature, and introduce a bill to lower the recount from 0.5% to some lower number. Be sure to disclose the degradation of the confidence level for such a lower number.

    Best Wishes. If we should both be residents of WI at such time, I’ll vote for you! Promise.

  50. dcpetterson says:

    parksie —

    The recount of the MN Senatorial election was done by hand. There were at least three witnesses to each count of each ballot — one Republican, one Democrat, and one Indy. Any one of them could challenge any decision about which way that vote had gone, for any reason. An independent judiciary panel decided the disputed ballots. Such a system is far more accurate than any electronic system.

    As far as the 1/2% error rate — theoretically, errors would equally go in both directions. Assuming a 2-way race with the vote evenly split, a 1/2% error rate (or any error rate, for that matter) would tend to flip a vote from black to white as often as from white to black. A recount in a close election, therefore, might not change the total much, even if thousands of individual ballots were originally tabulated wrong.

    On the other hand, if the actual vote is not so close, then (by definition) there would be significantly more votes for one candidate than the other; therefore, the leading candidate would have more votes which could potentially be miscounted for the other guy.

    Thus, truly random counting errors of any size in close elections tend not to make much difference in the actual totals; random counting errors in not-so-close elections tend to make them appear to be a bit closer than they really are. Perverted, isn’t it? 🙂

    In the Wisconsin case, there are legitimate questions, since the woman in Waukesha is clearly either totally incompetent or irredeemably corrupt. We can’t know which until the recount is done; and either choice raises the possibility of errors that were not random, but purposeful and systemic and massive. Errors of this type would tend to be weighted in one direction, not evenly and randomly distributed. It is, therefore, reasonable to do a detailed recount.

  51. parksie,

    Do you remember how they generated the 0.5% figure?

    I wish I could remember where that number came from. I remember that the punch card number came from comparisons betweem the machine reads and the subsequent hand counts. The electronic one was a more esoteric calculation that had something about the aggregation processes and such.

    What’s more accurate – hand recount and tallying of a machine generated paper audit trail or the machines internal calculations/reporting?

    This is precisely why I say that we kid ourselves into believing that we can know who won elections when the counts are that close. Other factors start to enter into the equation.

    For example, there’s no doubt that many voters in Palm Beach County who thought they were voting for Al Gore ended up being counted as Buchanan voters. But exactly how many? We’ll never know. But statistical inference strongly suggests that it was enough people to shift the state to Bush, and thus the national election to Bush. That small error had huge consequences, and couldn’t be fixed after the votes were cast.

    Even in the case of a fully electronic system with voter verification screens prior to commit, there is room for error. Code mistakes happen far more frequently than you’d believe. And how do you know that all machines from all precincts got counted in the final tally? Someone has to create a master list. What if a machine was left off of the master list? Presumably, you’d get a set of votes from a machine that’s not on the list. Does that mean the machine is wrong or the list is wrong? What do you do if votes from a particular machine on the list don’t show up? Was the list wrong, or did the machine not register the votes? No matter what, humans get involved in various places, so human error is inevitable.

    In the end, we simply cannot determine with that degree of accuracy what everybody’s intended vote was. And so in really close elections, we guess and pretend we know we’re right. We look at a picture of a car on a street in Google Maps and pretend that we can tell the make and model…because the alternative is too horrible for us to accept.

  52. DC,

    theoretically, errors would equally go in both directions

    Only if the types of errors have a random distribution. They usually don’t have a random distribution, though. Rarely is a single voting method used consistently throughout a state, so you often find that one method has a tendency toward overvotes, while another has a tendency toward undervotes. Even having the same voting equipment isn’t enough, since different precincts will have different ballots (other down-ballot offices, initiatives, etc.), which changes the position of particular votes on the ballots…and that, too, has an impact on over/under votes.

    The recount of the MN Senatorial election was done by hand…An independent judiciary panel decided the disputed ballots. Such a system is far more accurate than any electronic system.

    Only if the measure of accuracy is how well the tally matches the ballot record. Did any ballots disappear between the time the voters filled them out and the time that they were counted by hand? Did the ballots accurately reflect the voters’ intent?

    Ultimately, the point of an election is to take the intent of each voter, and aggregate those individual intents into a collective intent…not to tally a ballot record. To the extent that those two differ, the election has inherent inaccuracy.

  53. Pingback: Kloppenburg Asks for Recount and Investigation - Lez Get Real | Lez Get Real

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