By Kate Elizabeth Queram Wisconsin Reporter
MADISON — The statewide recount of ballots in the Wisconsin Supreme Court race will cost taxpayers more than $400,000, according to financial data gathered by Wisconsin Reporter.
Final recount estimates from 70 of the state’s 72 counties total $400,525, county officials said.
Figures for Pierce and Adams counties were unavailable. County clerks there could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon.
The estimated total is roughly 20 percent less than the Government Accountability Board’s initial cost projection of $500,000, which county clerks said was largely due to overestimating how long the recount process would take and underestimating how many volunteer workers they would have.
“I didn’t really know what to expect. It came on so fast,” said Bayfield County Clerk Scott Fibert, whose staff completed the recount in less than two days at a final cost of about $1,750. “We did it in a day and a half, so I guess it’s about as reasonable as we could have got. Anything more, and I probably would have had budget issues, and I’m sure a lot of people are going to have budget.”
Eight of those 70 counties said recount costs were higher than expected. Clerks in most of those counties said the extra money went to reprogramming databases or renting additional memory packs for vote tabulating machines.
Final cost estimates varied widely, because clerks tabulated their expenses in different ways.
For example, county clerk staff assisted with recount duties in virtually every county. But those employees would have been paid on those days anyway, leaving clerks confused as to whether those costs should be tabulated in final estimates.
“I could have calculated it in a lot of different ways,” said Walworth County Clerk Kimberly Bushey. “Because the people were here already and they would have been paid already, is that a cost of the recount or not? And I don’t know how to answer that.”
Including staff time, Bushey said, Walworth County recount costs totaled roughly $8,700. Excluding those expenses, the county’s final tally is about $2,800.
The statewide recount was called at the request of challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg, Wisconsin’s assistant attorney general who trailed incumbent Supreme Court Justice David Prosser by 7,316 votes after the initial April 5 canvassing of ballots.
Seventy-one of the state’s 72 counties completed the recount by the initial May 9 deadline. After receiving an extension from Dane County Circuit Court Judge Richard Niess, Waukesha County finished its recount May 19, at a final cost of $129,200, said Ellen Nowak, chief of staff to Waukesha County Executive Dan Vrakas.
A total of 1,500,113 votes were counted during the three-week recount process, according to GAB data. Statewide, Kloppenburg gained a total of 693 votes, while Prosser gained an additional 371.
But Prosser retained his initial overall lead, winning the recount with a total of 752,694 votes, 7,004 more than Kloppenburg’s vote total of 745,690. Kloppenburg elected not to challenge the results of the recount, so Prosser retained his seat on the state’s high court.