The Assembly’s elections committee largely supported a new bill that gives municipalities an option of how to count votes during recall elections.
The Committee on Campaigns and Elections held a hearing on the bill, which allowed a municipal canvasing board to choose whether votes should be recounted by hand or by a machine that is required on election days.
If the proposed bill passes, it would change the current mandate that uses machines for counting recounts, and give elected officials the choice.
The bill’s author, Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt, R-Fond Du Lac, said the bill would reduce costs by giving the boards an option to do whichever is cheaper. He said all but two clerks support the bill.
“It simply makes sense to employ an alternative method, especially if it will potentially save money,” Thiesfeldt said.
Diane Hermann-Brown, Sun Praire city clerk, said clerks like the flexibility the bill offers and added the flexibility would “reinforce the integrity of elections.” The only concern clerks had, she noted, was the amount of time given to decide which method boards could use.
The bill is not a mandate and gives local officials more choices, Sen. Rick Gudex, R-Fond Du Lac, said.
“I think it’s a good bill,” Gudex said. “I think it’s something that will save taxpayers money.”
He added “common sense” bills like this one help show Wisconsinites the government is serious about saving them money. In certain instances, he said, counting ballots by hand can be faster than machines.
Government Accountability Board Director Kevin Kennedy, who spoke for information only, said the bill would return the law to where it was before 2006. Kennedy explained the change happened because people thought the law was “unfair.”
Kennedy noted technology has changed since that time, and memory equipment is cheaper. He also said canvassing boards count ballots by hand in recounts anyway to check for irregularities before reprocessing the votes through machines.
“When a recount is done, for all practical purposes, you’re already doing a hand count,” Kennedy said.
Fond du Lac County Clerk Lisa Fraber said she supports the bill because of the cost savings. Although the machines are accurate, she said they are expensive and time consuming. As some wards in her county only have a handful of voters, so she would rather count the votes by hand.