Recount flips results in Wisconsin Senate primary

August 30, 2014

MADISON A recount that did not include 110 missing ballots flipped the results in a Democratic primary for a state Senate seat in southwestern Wisconsin, the candidates said.

The Wisconsin State Journal (http://bit.ly/1qNAR5P ) reported Friday that the recount in Senate District 17 ended with Spring Green attorney Pat Bomhack ahead of Ernie Wittwer by 33 votes. Wittwer is a former state Department of Transportation budget director.

The Government Accountability Board, which oversees Wisconsin elections, has not yet posted the recount results. But the candidates said the recount in the last outstanding county ended Thursday evening with Bomhack ahead.

Election results certified by county boards of canvassers last week showed Wittwer ahead by seven votes.

Bomhack requested the recount, which revealed that 110 ballots had disappeared in Monroe. Monroe City Clerk Carol Stamm said a poll worker likely mixed the marked ballots with some that weren't used, and both were destroyed following the primary.

But an investigation also left open the possibility that the ballots had been taken by an unidentified man spotted at the polling place after it closed. Monroe police are looking into whether a theft occurred.

The Green County canvassing board certified recount results Wednesday that included only the remaining ballots, rejecting a suggestion that it use election night totals from Monroe.

That decision did not determine the outcome of the recount. If election night totals had been used, Bomhack would still have won by three votes, Wittwer said.

"I'm glad the mistake in Monroe did not decide the election," he said.

But, he added, the lost ballots and other problems, including an open ballot bag found in Juneau County and the mishandling of absentee ballots in other areas before the recount, left him dumbfounded.

"I'm befuddled by the irregularities, Monroe was just the biggest," Wittwer said. "It has undermined my confidence in the electoral process."

Bomhack said the primary shows "the need for greater protections to safeguard the vote."

If the board certifies Bomhack as the winner, he will face Rep. Howard Marklein, a Spring Green Republican, in the general election on Nov. 4.

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Associated Press