Post-Election Reminders - Canvass Procedures and Potential Recount


Timely Attention Required



Wisconsin County Clerks
Wisconsin Municipal Clerks
City of Milwaukee Election Commission
Milwaukee County Election Commission


Meagan Wolfe, Administrator
Attachment Size
Clerk Communication- 4.3.19.pdf 73.29 KB

Congratulations on another successful election!  Thank you for your commitment to administering elections in Wisconsin with integrity and transparency.  For both municipal and county clerks, the important work of canvassing and certifying the results is just beginning.  The following is an outline of post-election reminders and resources to assist you with these next steps, as well as some initial information regarding the potential for a statewide recount for the Supreme Court Justice contest.


This memo includes tips for clerks as you prepare for the canvass process and recount reminders.  In summary:

Item 1 below outlines post-election and canvass tips for clerks such as a reminder to enter provisional ballot numbers into WisVote, canvass best practices and resources, and other post-election items to consider as you prepare for a potential of a statewide recount.  

Item 2 below outlines what we know regarding the potential for a recount in the Supreme Court race and reminders about the recount laws and timeline.  The margin between the two candidates in yesterday’s Supreme Court race is within the statutory recount margin, although the candidate would be responsible for paying the costs of the recount.  No recount has been requested at this time. 

1) Post-Election and Canvass Reminders

Municipal Boards of Canvassers are currently meeting to certify election results and provide those results to the counties by the April 8, 2019 deadline.  In addition, all election results must be certified and submitted by the counties to WEC by April 12, 2019.  Accurate vote totals, transparency and thorough documentation during the canvass process increases public confidence in the election process and confirms that the election was conducted with integrity.  Below are reminders for both Municipal and County Boards of Canvassers to consider when organizing and conducting their canvass.

Municipal Canvass and Post-Election Tasks Reminders and Resources:

•    All provisional ballots must be entered into WisVote and tracked accordingly.  The provisional ballot record must be updated (if the voter provides the missing information) and the final status of each ballot (counted or rejected) entered at the conclusion of the municipal canvass.  The deadline for a voter to provide missing provisional ballot information to their municipal clerk is Friday, April 5, 2019 at 4:00 p.m.

•    Each Municipal Board of Canvassers must complete its canvass by 4:00 p.m. on April 8, 2019 and provide the results to the county.

•    Municipal Board of Canvassers are encouraged to thoroughly document the canvass process.  Accurate canvass results and organized election materials will assist with conducting any potential recounts.

o    Correct any errors in the unofficial results from election night that were transmitted to the county and provide detailed documentation of the changes and the reasons for the discrepancies or updated totals.  Transparency is an essential aspect of the canvass process that provides the public and candidates confidence that votes were accurately tabulated.  Past experience has shown that changes in results from Election Night to the official canvass can attract as much scrutiny as changes to results that could occur after a recount.
o    The minutes of your Board of Canvassers meeting should include details of the proceedings and document any decisions made by the board.  
o    Ensure that all Inspector’s Statements have been completed and any issues that may impact the election results have been itemized and explained in the incident log.
o    All materials should be organized after the canvass process and retained according to the retention schedule outlined beginning on page 232 of the Election Administration Manual:….  

•    Suggested procedures are outlined in the Municipal Board of Canvassers manual posted on the agency website: 

County Canvass Process Reminders and Resources:

•    The deadline for counties to complete their canvass and submit their results to the Wisconsin Elections Commission is April 12, 2019.
•    Suggested procedures are outlined in the County Board of Canvassers manual posted on the agency website:….  
•    Proofread your canvass carefully before submitting a summary statement to WEC.  We encourage you to pay special attention to numbers that seem extraordinarily high or low for the population of the municipality.  Canvass proofing procedures similar to those used for the 2018 November General Election will be provided as a resource and posted to the agency website soon.

2) Potential for a Statewide Recount and Recount Reminders

In yesterday’s Supreme Court contest, the unofficial results show a margin between the two candidates that is within the range for the trailing candidate to request a recount.  Some media reports suggest that the Neubauer campaign may pursue a statewide recount, but the WEC has not received any additional information nor confirmation.  The unofficial results, as aggregated from the numbers posted to the 72 county websites, show that there were 605,728 ballots cast for Brian Hagedorn and 599,768 ballots cast for Lisa Neubauer and a total of 1,206,345 votes cast in the Supreme Court race. This means the unofficial results show a margin between the two candidates of 5,960 votes, or 0.49%.  

Wisconsin State Statute § 9.01 outlines the rules for a recount.  A candidate whose total votes cast is within 1% of the top vote-getter in that contest may request a recount.  More specifically, if the margin between the petitioning candidate and the candidate with the most votes in the contest is between 0.26% and 1%, then the candidate may request a recount, but the candidate is responsible for the costs.  If the margin is 0.25% or less, then the candidate may request a recount and the state and counties pay for the costs.  Based on the unofficial results, Candidate Neubauer would be eligible to request a recount but would be responsible for the costs.  

A recount petition cannot be filed until completion of the canvass and the statutory deadline for an eligible, aggrieved candidate to file a recount petition is 5:00 p.m. on the third business day after the WEC receives the last county canvass.  

Estimated recount costs are not known at this point.  If a candidate does request a recount, then the WEC would need to collect cost estimates from each county in order to provide the candidate with a quote. The candidate is required by law to pay the estimated cost of the recount prior to the start of the recount.  The law was changed in 2017 to include state costs in addition to county costs as part of the total cost of a recount.  

The WEC has historical election cost data that may be useful if counties are asked to provide an estimate.  Historical cost figures for elections through 2016 are available here  Cost information for the 2016 Presidential Recount is available here:  No action is needed on the part of clerks at this point to estimate costs.  If a recount is requested, the WEC will work with county clerks to formulate a cost estimate that will be provided to the candidate.  

Completing the municipal and county board of canvass processes is one of the most critical steps in the election process. Thank you again for your hard work and diligence in ensuring fair, transparent, and accurate elections in Wisconsin.  If the WEC can be of assistance or provide any additional resources, please do not hesitate to contact us at or (608) 266-8005.