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Audit reveals accurate vote tally in Douglas County

A post-election hand count of ballots cast in Gordon, Oakland and Lake Nebagamon were 'spot on,' said Douglas County Clerk Sue Sandvick.

Election Results 2022 graphic
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SUPERIOR — Voters in Douglas County can be confident their ballots in the Nov. 8 election were counted accurately following an audit of voting equipment, according to County Clerk Sue Sandvick.

Gordon, Oakland and Lake Nebagamon were among the 368 municipalities selected at random by the Wisconsin Elections Commission to test the accuracy of tabulation equipment used during the election.

Lake Nebagamon’s 646 ballots were recounted Nov. 29, followed by Oakland’s 586 ballots on Nov. 30, and Gordon’s 413 ballots on Dec. 1, to meet the Friday, Dec. 2 deadline set by the state.

County staff assisted municipal clerks and election inspectors in hand-counting the ballots across four races. Governor and lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state and the representative to the Assembly races were selected to determine the accuracy of voting equipment used in Wisconsin.

“The three municipalities were spot-on,” Sandvick said. “There was no deviation from the tally tape.”

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Post-election voting equipment audits are important because they provide an additional way to reassure Wisconsinites that voting machines worked properly, said Riley Vetterkind, public information officer for the Wisconsin Elections Commission.

If a ballot is marked incorrectly, such as drawing a circle around the oval next to the preferred candidate’s name, Sandvick said the voting equipment may not register the vote. She said they found no evidence of incorrectly marked ballots. However, they did find ballots where the oval was filled lightly compared to other ballots, she said.

“The machine caught every marking, even if we thought ‘I wonder if the machine’s going to get it?’” Sandvick said.

Voting equipment used in Wisconsin is required to be audited after every general election to ensure accuracy of the tabulation equipment and to determine the error rate of the systems in counting ballots. That’s in addition to testing the equipment using a predetermined set of ballots prior to the election. Results are also reviewed for discrepancies by county and state election officials before they are certified.

Vetterkind said the audit this year was conducted in 10% of all reporting units across the state to serve as a triple check on the Nov. 8 election results.

The Wisconsin Elections Commission staff will analyze the results of the audit statewide and prepare a public report for the commission to review at its February meeting.

“It’s unusual for there to be significant issues and if there are issues, they are required to investigate and explain why,” Vetterkind said. “… We don’t really get a lot of reports of unusual results.”

Shelley Nelson is a reporter with the Duluth Media Group since 1997, and has covered Superior and Douglas County communities and government for the Duluth News Tribune from 1999 to 2006, and the Superior Telegram since 2006. Contact her at 715-395-5022 or snelson@superiortelegram.com.
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