The Milwaukee recount is being held at the Wisconsin Center. Photo by Adam Kelnhofer, Nov. 23, 2020.

By Adam Kelnhofer for WisPolitics.com.

Nearly 400 unopened ballots from the city of Milwaukee’s Ward 315 on the south side were found during the recount effort this morning.

“Occasionally, very rarely, a significant error like this can occur,” Milwaukee Election Commission Executive Director Claire Woodall-Vogg said.

The Trump campaign’s legal team objected to adding the 386 newly found votes to the final count, but the board voted unanimously to include them in the results.

While the Trump campaign legal team said there was no evidence to support the idea that the ballots had remained in the custody of election officials since Nov. 3, Milwaukee County Election Commissioner Rick Baas and Chair Tim Poznanski argued there was no evidence to support the idea they ever left the custody of election officials.

Baas, a Republican, said his seven years of experience as an election commissioner in Milwaukee County have made him “relatively confident” in the system and election workers. “You might not like the election results, but I do believe these people to be professional. So let’s just try to stick with what we have,” Baas told the Trump campaign.

Election workers and officials brought the newly found ballots to the attention of the Election Commission board as soon as they found the mistake to be as open and transparent as possible, Woodall-Vogg added.

Woodall-Vogg said the ballots were likely overlooked because of a simple human error at Milwaukee’s central count location on election night. “It appears that a team must have had the end of their shift come, packed away their box and took ballots up to the machine without any indication that they hadn’t finished that ward,” she said.

She said the ballots will be added to the 409 ballots already counted, bringing the new total to 795 for Ward 315.

While Woodall-Vogg said finding such a large amount of ballots is “highly unusual,” she pointed out that the recount is specifically designed to ensure all valid ballots are counted. “I want to make sure that every voter’s vote counts,” she said.

Milwaukee County Clerk George Christenson said finishing the recount before Thanksgiving is highly unlikely at this point, but he is still confident the effort will finish before the Dec. 1 deadline.

The Election Commission Board agreed with the Biden and Trump legal teams to try to speed up the process by forgoing verbally announcing the results of how many ballots have been set aside for the Trump campaign for every ward and district of all 19 municipalities in Milwaukee County. Instead, the numbers will be included in the court reporter’s notes and shared with both legal teams.

South Milwaukee and Fox Point finished their recounts today, as at least 54 percent of all votes cast in Milwaukee County’s 19 municipalities had been recounted by the end of the day.

Christenson said Greenfield, the city of Milwaukee and River Hills are the only remaining municipalities to be counted, with about 380,000 ballots processed. River Hills began counting Friday, but has yet to return to the recount location to finish.

Christenson said Milwaukee County Sheriff’s deputies did not escort anybody off the premises today, but they have done so at least seven different times, including one person twice.

Police presence was noticeably reduced compared to Monday, with fewer deputies walking amongst observers and standing watch around the perimeter of the recount room.

As the recount in Dane County entered its fifth day today, Clerk Scott McDonell said the county had recounted 36 percent of its ballots — 125,178 out of 345,604.

He said in a tweet that the count was “slightly behind schedule” and that he expected workers to finish Middleton and work on Fitchburg and Sun Prairie today.

See more from McDonell:
https://twitter.com/samcdonell

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