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How much of the 2016 presidential election recount in Wisconsin is being done by hand? (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel/Mark Hoffman) How much of the 2016 presidential election recount in Wisconsin is being done by hand? (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel/Mark Hoffman)

How much of the 2016 presidential election recount in Wisconsin is being done by hand? (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel/Mark Hoffman)

Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher December 9, 2016

In the Wisconsin presidential election recount, is only Dane County doing the recount by hand?

A Twitter war (well, skirmish) broke out between two Wisconsin congressmen after one of them, Republican Sean Duffy, called Madison a Communist community.

In making the attack, Duffy also made a claim about the state’s recount of 2016 election results, which was forced by Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein and supported by Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

"We only have one county that's hand counting the votes, that's Dane County, which is the home of Madison," Duffy told Fox News talk show host Tucker Carlson on Dec. 1, 2016. "It's the progressive-liberal-Communist community of Madison.

"And they’re taking as long as they can -- the Stein and Hillary folks who are on the ground are taking as much time contesting ballots, slow walking as much as they can."

Six days later, Democrat Mark Pocan, a decades-long resident of the Madison area, tweeted:

Demanding an apology from @RepSeanDuffy for calling Madison communist community that doesn't believe in democracy & freedom on @FoxNews.

That led Duffy to respond the same day with his own tweet:

The PC crowd is humorless. For those offended by my "communist" comment, I'll send a therapy dog to your "safe place" of choice in Madison.

And the next day, Pocan went on Carlson’s show to talk about the spat some more.

Perhaps lost in the back-and-forth was Duffy’s claim about the recount -- that Dane is the only county in Wisconsin recounting ballots by hand.

The recount

Stein raised millions of dollars over the Thanksgiving holiday to pay for presidential election recounts in Wisconsin and two other states. She also said Wisconsin uses illegal voting machines, which we rated Pants on Fire.

We noted in that item that the vast majority of voting machines in Wisconsin are optical readers. Voters fill out a paper ballot and feed it into the machine, which then electronically records the vote. Meanwhile, a small percentage of votes are cast on touch-screen machines -- but in Wisconsin they also generate a paper record for each ballot cast.

As of early afternoon on Dec. 9, 2016, with the recount expected to be completed within two or three days, 88.5 percent of the Wisconsin votes had been recounted.

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Clinton had gained 49 votes on Republican Donald Trump, who won the state by some 22,000 votes in the original count. All told, there was a net change of 1,322 votes in the presidential race among the more than 2.63 million ballots that had been recounted.

As for how the recounting has been done, the majority of Wisconsin’s 72 counties (including Dane, but not Milwaukee) are doing it by hand.

Here is what the county election clerks told the Wisconsin Election Commission at the outset of the recount about their plans for the recount:

47 counties: Recount by hand
13 counties: Combination of hand count and optical scanners
12 counties: Optical scanners

A word on the process in Wisconsin:

  • Every ballot is first examined by the recount workers so the candidates’ representatives can see it and raise any questions or objections to it.
  • If the recount is conducted by hand, the ballots are sorted into piles for each candidate for counting by hand.
  • If the recount is by machine, the ballots are fed into the tabulating machine for counting.

The commission told us it did not follow up with the clerks to see if any of their plans had changed.

But there were news reports about hand counts being done in various counties, including Brown, Clark and Marinette.

In any case, Duffy was not claiming that Dane was the only county doing hand recounts, according to Duffy spokesman Mark Bednar.

Duffy "was explaining that Dane County was the only county where there were reports on the ground of Stein supporters trying to slow-walk the recount process," Bednar said.

But that’s not how it came out in the interview.

Duffy declared that only Dane County was hand counting votes. But many counties decided to do the recount by hand.

The "slow walking" part of what Duffy said has to do with Stein and Clinton supporters and nothing to do with Dane County.

Our rating

Duffy said Wisconsin has only one county, Dane, "that's hand counting the votes" in the 2016 presidential recount.

But several dozen counties committed to doing recounts by hand, Dane being one of them.

We rate the claim Pants on Fire.

Our Sources

YouTube, video clip of Sean Duffy interview, posted Dec. 7, 2016

Email, Sean Duffy spokesman Mark Bednar, Dec. 9, 2016

PolitiFact Wisconsin, "Wisconsin uses voting machines that are outlawed, they are illegal," Nov. 29, 2016

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Judge: Wisconsin recount will go forward," Dec. 9, 2016

Wisconsin Election Commission, recount update, Dec. 9, 2016

Wisconsin Election Commission, recount methods, Dec. 1, 2016

Email, Wisconsin Election Commission public information officer Reid Magney, Dec. 9, 2016

Email, Mark Pocan spokesman David Kolovson, Dec. 9, 2016

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More by Tom Kertscher

In the Wisconsin presidential election recount, is only Dane County doing the recount by hand?

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