Image by Tom Arthur

On Monday, the Wisconsin Elections Commission held a special meeting to authorize a statewide recount of votes in the 2016 presidential election. Wisconsin is one of three states, also including Michigan and Pennsylvania, in which recounts are likely.

The commission established ground rules for who would pay for a recount as well as the process under which it can proceed.

President-elect Donald Trump, after repeatedly asserting as a candidate that the election would be “rigged,” has used Twitter to angrily denounce calls for a recount in these three narrowly decided states, claiming that he won the popular vote “if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”

Commission Chair Mark L. Thomsen, a Democratic appointee, noted that the recount process would be a good way to “reassure Wisconsin voters that we have a good system . . . [and] we are not counting illegal votes.” Thomsen added that “it is most unfortunate that the President-elect is claiming that there are huge problems with our system and that’s what’s feeding this conspiracy theory.” He called such talk an “insult” to the 1854 municipal and 72 county clerks who run the state’s elections.


In Wisconsin, the campaigns for both Green Party candidate Jill Stein and American Delta Party contender Rocky Roque De La Fuente campaigns filed petitions for a recount last Friday, November 25. The petitions arrived at approximately 3 p.m. Central Standard Time, shortly before the filing deadline, throwing the state’s election officials into action in the midst of a long holiday weekend when many county clerks were away from their offices.

The petitions called for a full recount of the presidential vote in all Wisconsin counties. The recount must be completed by December 13 under a provision of federal law which allows a thirty-five-day “safe harbor” for states to resolve disputes in the presidential balloting. The actual vote of the Electoral College is scheduled to take place six days later on December 19.

The meeting lasted just over an hour, including a closed session where commission members met with officials of the Wisconsin Department of Justice to discuss possible actions in the event of litigation over the recount process or results. During the meeting, commissioners determined that a statewide hand count of all ballots would not be required, as Stein had requested. Individual counties will determine the method of counting (by hand or by machine) unless the Stein campaign went to court to request a statewide hand count, and prevailed. Following this decision, the Stein campaign filed a suit in Dane County Circuit Court to require a hand count of all 2.98 million ballots in the state.

In Wisconsin, the elections process is conducted at the county level, where clerks in the state’s seventy-two counties determine a variety of voting processes, but it is overseen statewide by the Wisconsin Elections Commission. The commission was formed on June 30, 2016, as a replacement to the nonpartisan Government Accountability Board. It is made up of six partisan members, four appointed by legislative leaders and two by the governor. The commission staff is nonpartisan.

State law requires payment in advance for the full cost of the recount, a cost that the commission on Monday calculated as $3.5 million, much higher than prior estimates. The Stein and De La Fuente campaigns will each be required to pay up to the full amount of those costs by 4:30 p.m. on November 29 for a recount to be authorized. If the actual costs exceed the estimate, the petitions would receive a bill on December 12 for the balance due.

The commission approved a motion to require each campaign to pay one half of the total cost; if the De La Fuente campaign wishes to remain a petitioner, it will need to share equally in the burden. If it chooses not to pay, it would need to step down as a petitioner and have the Stein campaign pay the full estimated amount.

Following the meeting, the commission entertained questions from about two dozen members of the press, mostly local reporters. They dismissed concerns about hacking, saying the voting machines are not connected to the Internet so any tampering would have had to occur at the individual machine level, not systemwide.

Norman Stockwell is publisher of The Progressive.



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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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