Wisconsin Recount Laws

This information was initially released on October 21, 2010 and updated in October 2012.

Note: The website hosting Wisconsin's statutes does not allow for links to individual subsections, though the index for all statutes cited below is available at: http://www.legis.state.wi.us/rsb/Statutes.html. All subsections below, unless otherwise noted, are from the Wisconsin Statutes, Chapter 9, “Post-Election Actions; Direct Legislation,” Section 9.01, “Recounts.” This chapter is available as a PDF: http://www.legis.state.wi.us/statutes/Stat0009.pdf.

Voting System Used: 

Mixed paper ballot and DREs with VVPAT

For more details, visit Verified Voting.

Counting Method: 

Mix of recount and retabulation
Counting method chosen by initiator

Recount initiators may petition the court for a recount to be conducted by hand, though the law specifies that the burden of proof is on the petitioner to demonstrate why a hand count should be enforced. Otherwise, the default counting method is the same as that used in the initial canvass: paper ballots are counted by hand; optical scan ballots are retabulated on an automatic tabulator; and for votes cast on direct-recording electronic machines (DREs), the voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) is detached and counted by hand. Wisconsin's Election Recount Procedures Manual for a full description of counting methods: http://gab.wi.gov/sites/default/files/publication/65/recount_manual_2396...

Initiating Mechanism: 

Candidate-initiated Voter-initiated

Candidate-Initiated Options: 

Candidate determines how many/which precincts to recount

Any candidate at any election may petition for a recount. See Subsection (1)(a)1. The candidate filing a recount petition may choose to select only a few wards to be included in the recount. If so, their opponent retains the right to request a recount for the remaining wards. See Subsections (1)(a)3 and (1)(a)4. Timing: Recount requests may not be filed before the completion of the initial canvass, but must be filed no later than 5 p.m. on the third business day following the last meeting day of the last board of canvassers. See Subsection (1)(a)1. The recount shall begin no later than 9 a.m. on the second day after a recount is ordered. Returns from a recount must be completed no later than 13 days from the date the recount is ordered. See Subsection (1)(a)3.

Voter-Initiated Options: 

Voters may request recounts for initiatives/questions

Any elector who voted on a given question in any election may petition for a recount for that question. See Subsection (1)(a)1. Timing: Recount requests may not be filed before the completion of the canvass, but must be filed no later than 5 p.m. on the third business day following the last meeting day of the last board of canvassers. See Subsection (1)(a)1. The recount shall begin no later than 9 a.m. on the second day after a recount is ordered. Returns from a recount must be completed no later than 13 days from the date the recount is ordered. See Subsection (1)(a)3.

Cost for Candidate-Initiated Recounts: 

Initiator pays set or per jurisdiction fee
Paid entirely by initiator

The cost paid by the recount initiator varies depending on the vote margin between the apparent winning candidate and the recount initiator, as well as the size of the election. For elections where 1,000 or fewer votes are cast, if the margin is less than ten votes, the initiator does not pay a fee; if the margin is at least ten votes, the initiator pays $5 per ward. For elections where more than 1,000 votes are cast, if the margin is not more than .5%, the initiator does not pay a fee; if it is between 0.5 and 2.0%, the fee is $5 per ward; and if it is greater than 2%, they pay the entire cost of the recount. See Subsection (1)(ag)1, 1m., and 2.

Cost for Voter-Initiated Recounts: 

Initiator pays set or per jurisdiction fee
Paid entirely by initiator

The cost paid by the recount initiator varies depending on the vote margin between the affirmative and negative sides of the question to be recounted, as well as the size of the election. The cost paid by the recount initiator varies depending on the vote margin between the apparent winning candidate and the recount initiator, as well as the size of the election. For elections where 1,000 or fewer votes are cast, if the margin is less than ten votes, the initiator does not pay a fee; if the margin is at least ten votes, the initiator pays $5 per ward. For elections where more than 1,000 votes are cast, if the margin is not more than .5%, the initiator does not pay a fee; if it is between 0.5 and 2.0%, the fee is $5 per ward; and if it is greater than 2%, they pay the entire cost of the recount. See Subsections (1)(ag)1., 1m., and 2.

Challengers and Observers: 

Statutes specify that recount must be public
Party/candidate or initiator has statutory authority to appoint observers
Party/candidate or initiator has statutory authority to appoint challengers

Subsection (1)(ar)11 states that “All steps of the recount shall be performed publicly.” It also allows for challengers: “The candidates, the person demanding the recount and their authorized representatives and counsel may object to the counting of any ballot.” Subsection (3) further allows for not only candidates and their representatives, but also “interested persons,” to observe a recount.

Rules for Determining Voter Intent: 

Statutory guidance provided Secretary of State or Election Board responsible for defining intent The Government Accountability Board is tasked with developing standards for recounts, including determining voter intent. The Board has developed a manual on “Counting Votes” that is available as pages 11-18 of the appendix to the Election Recount Procedures Manual and is available for download at: http://gab.wi.gov/manuals/recount  This manual interprets Section 7.50, Subsection (2) of Chapter 7, “Election Officials; Boards; Selection and Duties; Canvassing,” which sets forth statutory guidance on voter intent and can be found here: https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/statutes/statutes/7/II/50