On Thursday afternoon official “tabulators” were busily counting ballots from the city of Verona when the votes came up more than 90 short of what the electronic readout from the voting machines said they should. That sent Verona officials on a hunt, and a rubber-banded stack of 97 ballots turned up in the office of Verona City Clerk Judy Masarik.
“There’s a table in the clerk’s office, and there was a binder and some other papers on top of the ballots,” said City Administrator Bill Burns, who found the stack. The statewide recount, requested by challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg after her narrow loss to incumbent David Prosser, has the potential to change the outcome, so the Verona situation caused much consternation. On election night, all the ballots were supposed to be secured in sealed bags, which were then supposed to be signed by local elections officials. The seals were supposed to remain intact. Burns found the bundle unbagged. They were bagged and he drove them to Madison. The bag had no signatures or initials.
In minutes, Masarik, Burns and three Verona elections officers were sworn in, and a makeshift court hearing was under way, during which representatives from the Prosser and Kloppenburg campaigns tried to get to the bottom of how the ballots were separated from the other 3,500 or so Verona ballots, which were properly bagged and stored in Masarik’s office. “I just have to ask,” Peters asked Masarik: “Just why were these not sealed in a bag on election night?” But no one could say now it happened.