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Checking and rechecking is part of election night for clerks


STEVENS POINT, Wis. (WSAU) -- Have you ever wondered why it takes hours to find out who won an election, even with modern electronic ballot counters? There’s a few reasons.

Portage County Clerk Shirley Simonis says the machines count paper ballots, and that’s all they do.  “At the end of the night when the polls are closed, it prints off a tally tape. It tabulates all of the votes after the polls close, and it prints off a tape that tells the poll workers how many people voted, and how the votes were cast per candidate per party.”

Simonis says when the polls close, there’s more behind the scenes work with several people to make sure the votes are properly counted and the ballots are secured.  “After they reconcile their poll books, they count the ballots to make sure that there aren’t more ballots than voters listed in the poll book they reconcile. Then they can start looking for the write-ins, register the scattering, and report their results.”

Simonis says the electronic ballot counting machines print out a tally, but they do not electronically transfer that information to where it needs to be. She says clerks still have to enter that information into the state’s canvassing system and also on their local election returns website. That still takes time to ensure accuracy.

The primary election Tuesday may have had low turnout statewide, but not in Portage County where a four-way sheriff’s primary was held. Simonis says some precincts were very much higher than usual.  “Some of our smaller, local municipalities had as much as a 35% voter turnout of eligible voters, which you know, compared to what the state had anticipated, we did very well in some of our areas of Portage County.”

The statewide estimate was a 15% voter turnout.  It was even lower in Marathon county with only 9.5% turnout.