Wisconsin begins its historic presidential recount Thursday. Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate who requested the recount, didn't do so until late last week. So election officials have been scrambling to prepare for the big task. Federal guidelines require a final vote count by Dec. 13, less than two weeks from now.
Hundreds of municipalities and counties were still putting final touches on their plans on Wednesday. The Wisconsin Elections Commission held a lengthy teleconference to provide answers.
"In the last 48 hours I think we've heard some concern or a little bit of frustration to be honest from some of you," said the head of the commission, Mike Haas.
"I wanted to first say that we apologize for that, but explain that our phones on Monday were just absolutely crazy," Haas added.
Some local governments are still hiring people to count the ballots, and asked for guidance on what to pay the workers. Milwaukee County has those aspects of the recount process under control, according to Elections Director Julietta Henry.
"Every day we have about 130 scheduled. All of the tabulators will receive the same amount of pay, which is $15 an hour," Henry says.
Henry says municipalities have hired people who've worked at the polls before, bringing experience that should help move along the recount process. It will take place at the City of Milwaukee election warehouse, 1901 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. Henry says the action is scheduled to start Thursday at 9:00 a.m.
"Our board of canvassers will convene and open the recount with swearing in of all of the election workers. This will occur on a daily basis. The second order of business is to conduct the public test of the voting equipment, followed by training of the tabulators and the municipal clerks," Henry says.
Henry says the board of canvassers will decide whether Milwaukee will count its ballots by hand, or use voting machines. Then workers will dig into the job.
"We would compare and reconcile our poll list. We would do an absentee ballot review, verify the ballot bags, verify ballot count, review the provisional ballots, feed ballots into the optical scan tabulators or hand count," Henry says.
In one room of the warehouse, workers will count city of Milwaukee ballots. A second room will be dedicated to smaller municipalities. Henry says if someone finds a discrepancy, the county board of canvassers will determine what to do with the ballot. And sheriff’s deputies will be on hand 24/7 to ensure no one mishandles the ballots. County Clerk Joe Czarnezki says deputies also escorted the truck carrying the ballots.
"We had to move ballots today from the courthouse down to the warehouse. We had to hire a moving company to do that, I mean, you don't move hundreds of thousands of ballots, you know, throw 'em in the trunk of a car and take 'em," Czarnezki says.
Czarnezki says the recount has required a lot of work in a short period but he feels ready to begin. And when the dust settles, he does not expect a big difference in vote totals.
"I don’t think we're going to see a change in the outcome of the winner of the election in Wisconsin. That would be extremely rare for that to happen. We have confidence that our voting equipment is accurate," Czarnezki says.
The public is welcome to watch the recount process, but you must show an ID.