Candidates clash over recount in Wisconsin US House race

August 19, 2022 GMT

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Candidates in a close Wisconsin Republican congressional primary are battling over whether there will be a recount after results showed them a mere 74 votes apart.

Charity Barry filed a petition for a recount Thursday after running second to attorney Erik Olsen in Wisconsin’s 2nd District primary on Aug. 9. The official canvass showed Olsen’s small margin over Barry, a landscaping supervisor, came in a race with more than 43,000 ballots cast.

Barry’s petition, submitted to the Wisconsin Elections Commission, requested a hand recount, which is scheduled to begin Saturday morning.

In response, Olsen filed three motions with WEC Friday afternoon, each raising a separate issue intended to either slow or stop the process altogether.

Barry told the Associated Press Friday evening that she had not yet heard about Olsen’s petitions and declined to comment at the time.

Olsen asked WEC to order county canvassing boards to schedule their recounts in a staggered order so that he can be present at each of them — his right under state law. Currently, all six counties in the 2nd District are scheduled to begin their recounts at 9 a.m. on Saturday.

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He also contends that Barry failed to specify the basis for a recount. In her petition, Barry expressed concerns that a mistake or fraud affected the race, specifically citing her belief that mail-in and walk-in ballots “were defective and/or illegally cast and that the tabulated results are inaccurate.” Olsen claims this doesn’t fulfill the state’s requirement for a “verified petition.”

“Their petition has no specificity and that’s — we think that’s a violation of the Wisconsin statues and also constitutional law,” Olsen said in an interview.

In his third petition, Olsen took issue with Barry’s demand for a hand recount. Wisconsin statutes require candidates petitioning for a recount to establish “clear and convincing evidence” that some sort of mistake or irregularity would justify not using tabulating machines.

WEC spokesman John Smalley said Friday evening that the commission had returned Olsen’s petitions to him, as WEC does not have the jurisdiction to consider them, and he expects the recount to continue as planned.

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It’s unclear whether the counties themselves or a court would have jurisdiction over Olsen’s requests, Smalley said.

The liberal-leaning 2nd District covers a swath of southern Wisconsin that includes the city of Madison and Dane County as well as all or portions of five other counties. The GOP winner will face Democratic Rep. Mark Pocan in November.

Separately, Republican Adam Steen said Thursday he would mount a write-in challenge to Assembly Speaker Robin Vos. Steen, a political newcomer, narrowly lost to Vos after Steen was endorsed by Donald Trump over Vos’ refusal to pursue decertification of the 2020 election.

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Harm Venhuizen is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Follow Venhuizen on Twitter.