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Presidential ballots recount underway in Pierce, St. Croix counties

Ballots cast on touch-screen machines turned out paper rolls reflecting each voter's selection. Here, Gene McKahan of River Falls cuts individual ballots out as town of Gilman resident Linda Price assists during recount efforts in Pierce County. (RiverTown Multimedia photo by Mike Longaecker)1 / 2
Ballots from the town of Trenton and River Falls were among the thousands that recount officials pored over on Dec. 1 in Pierce County. (RiverTown Multimedia photo by Mike Longaecker)2 / 2

ELLSWORTH -- The presidential recount got underway Thursday in Wisconsin, including Pierce County, where efforts there were estimated to be among the most expensive per-vote in the state.

According to an estimate provided by Pierce County Clerk Jamie Feuerhelm to the state’s Elections Commission, the recount process could cost up to $140,964 there — a per-voter amount that ranks among the most expensive in Wisconsin, according to a Wheeler News report.

St. Croix County estimated its recount cost to be $37,000, while Pepin County provided an estimate of $3,959. Polk County’s estimate was $15,000.

Feuerhelm said he expected Pierce County’s estimate to exceed the actual cost to pay for recount efforts, but said he didn’t want to leave taxpayers on the hook by underestimating.

“It’s a hard number to nail down,” he said earlier this week.

At least half the ballots in Pierce County were being counted by hand, Feuerhelm said. Machines will process the rest.

Observers representing different parties hovered around recount stations, including Pierce County’s, which is held at the Pierce County Fairgrounds.

That included River Falls resident Bill Cordua, who was observing on behalf of the Jill Stein campaign, which petitioned for the recount amid concerns that outside forces had executed a cyber-attack on Wisconsin’s voting system.

Cordua said his job was to challenge the recount process if he witnessed processes not being handled by the book.

Though he said it was hard being in a position to potentially call out neighbors he knows canvassing the ballots, he said the effort is important to him.

“I was upset by all the allegations that the election could be swung,” Cordua said. “It’s important to see that it doesn’t happen, no matter what party you’re with. Having a good, verifiable process seems like it’s important.”

Dozens more packed the St. Croix County Board room on Friday in Hudson, where thousands more ballots were waiting to be recounted. St. Croix County Clerk Cindy Campbell said she hoped to have the process completed by Tuesday; canvassers worked over the weekend as part of the effort.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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