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Post-Election Audit: Wisconsin Elections Commission begins process to verify votes and certify results

Following the General Election on November 8, the Wisconsin Elections Commission confirmed Wisconsin’s 72 counties have reported 100% of the unofficial results.

It is normal for election results to change slightly as election officials conduct the canvasses to ensure an accurate vote total and complete the certification process.

“We’re proud of the hard work that our dedicated local election officials undertook to run a smooth election without significant problems,” said WEC Administrator Meagan Wolfe. “We have confirmed that all unofficial results have been reported by Wisconsin counties, which means local election officials are ready to begin the next step in the process of verifying the vote totals.”

The WEC does not centrally compile unofficial results. However, unofficial election results are available on county websites.

The WEC also does not produce an official turnout estimate in the immediate days following the election. However, there is a plan to produce an unofficial turnout estimate by taking the total votes cast in the highest-turnout statewide contest as compiled by the Associated Press, and dividing that total by the state’s estimated 2022 voting-age population of 4,676,183 as estimated by the Department of Administration’s Demographic Services Center.

“While the unofficial election results are complete, the process of triple checking the vote totals has just begun,” Wolfe said. “The results won’t be official until each county has completed their canvass and the WEC chairperson has certified the results. For state and federal contests, nothing is final until then.”

The purpose of a canvass is to account for every voted ballot and ensure that each valid vote is included in the official results. Wisconsin law requires each County Board of Canvassers to convene for the canvass of the General Election no later than 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday, November 15.

Counties have until Tuesday, November 22 to deliver to the WEC their statement of county canvass for the General Election for state and federal offices. WEC chairperson Don Millis has until December 1 to certify the state and federal results.

Recounts

Recounts may also occur. Recounts for the state level and national offices on the General Election ballot would be filed with the Elections Commission. If the vote totals from the completed county canvasses for such two-candidate contests are separated by 1% or less, the candidate trailing the leading candidate has the right to petition for a recount.

Wisconsin does not have automatic recounts, even if the unofficial results are close. There is no cost to the petitioning candidate if the difference between the leading candidate and the petitioner is 0.25% or less. If the difference is more than 0.25%, the WEC will estimate the cost, which must be paid before the recount begins.

A trailing candidate may request a recount only after the completion of the county canvasses and no later than 5:00 p.m. on the third business day following the last meeting day of the last County Board of Canvassers that completes its canvass. This would be no later than 5:00 p.m. on November 28.

Post-Election Audit

Wisconsin statutes require a post-election audit of voting systems used in Wisconsin after each General Election. The audit, designed to assess the accuracy and performance of each voting system approved for use in the state, is a public meeting and proper notice must be provided at least 48 hours in advance.

A representative sample of reporting units that use each type of voting equipment are included in the selection process. The parameters of each audit are established by the Elections Commission.

During this process, elections workers conduct an independent hand count of paper ballots and tally the results of the contests. The final hand-count tally total is compared to the election night voting system results. Audit materials are submitted to WEC for review. Any discrepancies are investigated by WEC staff.

Commission staff may request a vendor investigate and provide explanation for any unexplained discrepancies. WEC may, at its sole discretion, choose to re-test any voting system should unexplainable issues arise in the audit.

For this election, the WEC will audit voting equipment from a 10% random sample of the reporting units statewide. WEC staff met on Wednesday in a public meeting to make the random selection, which includes 369 reporting units in 301 municipalities across Wisconsin.

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Lee Matz

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