Wisconsin is no Minnesota. Where Minnesota’s post-election hand count of the 2008 U.S. Senate election between then Sen. Norm Coleman and now Sen. Al Franken was, as we wrote at the UK’s Guardian at the time, “one of the longest and most transparent election hand-counts in the history of the US,” Wisconsin has made it extremely difficult (putting it nicely) to know what the hell is actually going on in their statewide “recount” of the April 5th, 2011, state Supreme Court election between Justice David Prosser and Asst. Attorney General JoAnne Kloppenburg.
Where Minnesota’s chief election official, Sec. of State Mark Ritchie, oversaw a process to ensure that updated and accurate numbers were easily tracked and transparently shared with the media on a daily basis, Wisconsin’s chief election authority, their Government Accountability Board (G.A.B.), has posted (and even sometimes removed) confusing, misleading, and unclear updates, often with inaccurate information, on various schedules, and frequently with little or no explanation for wholesale changes and deletion of data.
Where Minnesota counted every vote by hand with full public scrutiny, including photographs and video cameras, Wisconsin is tabulating ballots, often by the same oft-failed, easily-manipulated computer systems that counted them in the first place, behind barriers that preclude broad public oversight, under an agreement between both campaigns which disallows the use of video cameras by observers.
The count, which began last Wednesday, often feels as if it’s happening in virtual darkness, at least to those of us trying to observe from afar, but the same sentiment has been shared with us by many we’ve spoken to who are there on the ground. There is an alarming lack of transparency to help the citizenry oversee the process in order to ensure accountability and an accurate count. To make matters worse, if that’s possible, chain of custody issues for the ballots appear questionable in a number of reported cases, after ballots have been kept in the same darkness by election officials — sometimes securely, sometimes not — for the three weeks following the election and prior to the “recount.”